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Over the Counter Drugs

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1 Your Role
I want to learn about treatment options for:


2 Basic Information
The Person is:
years old


graduated high school

3 Condition Information
Caron Treatment Centers accepts patients aged 13 years or older. For more information on services available to those 12 and under, please learn more about Caron's Student Assistance Program.

Prevalence of teen over-the-counter drug abuse.

While use of illicit drugs has decreased over the years, use of over-the-counter (OTC) medications has increased. From 1999 to 2004, there was a seven-fold increase in reported cases of overdoses related to the abuse of dextromethorphan (DXM), for example, the ingredient most commonly found in over-the-counter cough and cold medications. Most of these cases involved 15 and 16-year-olds. Overdoses of acetaminophen, an analgesic painkiller found in DXM-based remedies, reportedly cause more than 56,000 emergency room visits a year.

Teens seek OTC drugs for the highs and dissociative states they produce, and can easily obtain them via the family medicine cabinet. Teens’ common belief that it is safer to use OTC drugs than illicit drugs also contributes to rampant abuse.

For information on how to prevent teen OTC drug abuse, please click here.

Signs of teen OTC abuse.

Teens may exhibit various behavioral changes when abusing over-the-counter drugs, including moodiness, staying up late, difficulty getting up in the morning and changes in friends. Teens who are abusing OTC’s will often visit Internet drug sites that explain how to obtain and use OTC drugs to get high and raid the family’s supply of medications.

Dangers and effects of OTC abuse.

Effects of over-the-counter drugs vary greatly, but each can cause death if used incorrectly. Mixing OTC drugs is particularly dangerous, as incompatible ingredients produce severe side effects such as nausea, dizziness, a dangerous drop in blood pressure, hallucinations, seizures, an irregular or fast heartbeat, brain damage and buildup of toxins in the body that can damage the heart or liver.

Treating teen OTC drug abuse.

Family involvement is essential to the treatment of OTC drug addiction. To get help for your teen, please get in touch.