Guest Post By Anita Brikman
Has your teen been hanging out with Dex? No, it’s not a new kid in school. Dex is short for dextromethorphan (DXM), the active ingredient found in most over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines, which some teens abuse to get high. DXM is safe and effective when taken according to labeling instructions, but teens who are misusing these medicines can sometimes take up to 25 times the recommended dose.
Why do teens abuse cough medicine?
Cough medicine is affordable, easily available and teens often believe that DXM is safer to abuse than illegal drugs. Yet, abusing DXM can have extremely dangerous side effects, especially when abused along with other substances, such as alcohol.
The good news? There are five simple ways you can help prevent medicine abuse:
1. Educate yourself
Before reading this article, did you know that one out of three teenagers knows someone who’s abused DXM to get high? Get the facts and learn about the side effects of abuse. You can also stay vigilant by learning about The Stop Medicine Abuse icon – a helpful visual reminder on the packaging of most OTC products that contain DXM.
2. Talk with your teen
It can be tough to have a serious conversation without being met by a series of eyerolls, but communication with your teen is crucial. Believe it or not, studies show teens who learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are 50 percent less likely to abuse substances. Do you need some help getting the conversation started? Try using relevant pop culture events to break the ice or check out this handy infographic with conversation starters.
3. Safeguard your medicine cabinet
Only 44 percent of parents have taken action to safeguard their medicine cabinet. Properly safeguarding medicines doesn’t mean you have to place every single package of cough medicine in a locked safe, but train yourself to notice the types and quantities of medicine in your home. This way, you’ll know if something goes missing. OTC cough medicine is becoming increasingly harder for teens to purchase given new laws that prohibit the sale of DXM to minors in some states, and reducing the access is a major deterrent.
4. Monitor your teen’s behavior
Skittling. Tussing. Dexing. These are all slang terms that indicate DXM abuse. Monitoring your teen’s behavior is just as important as monitoring your medicine cabinet. Watch for potential warning signs of medicine abuse. In addition to the use of slang words, behavioral changes including increased hostility, declining grades, different friends and loss of interest in hobbies, can be a sign of medicine abuse.
5. Help educate others
Share your knowledge of medicine abuse with parents, teachers, school nurses and other adults in your teen’s life. When your teen is outside your home, make sure those watching or spending time with your teen are also aware of medicine abuse. The more people that are aware of DXM abuse, the better.
Anita Brikman joined the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) in 2016 and leads the association’s communications and public affairs functions. As a member of the senior management team, she is responsible for establishing and directing the organization’s communications strategies and goals. Anita is passionate about healthcare issues, with over two decades of experience as a news anchor and health reporter in major television markets making- medicine abuse awareness and prevention efforts important to her. She is also the mother of three teenagers.