Prevent Medicine Abuse

5 Ways to Prevent Medicine Abuse

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:

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.

You can get more information at or join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.

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.


What You Need to Know About The Sat and ACT

For more than 50 years, colleges have been using SAT and ACT scores for student admissions, but some things have changed over time.  For example, the high scores for both the SAT and ACT have changed due to the writing portion of the test. Colleges found the scoring of the essays to be subjective, and stopped considering it.  Therefore, the new scores reflect a composite number without consideration of the essay.  The essay portion is still offered and some colleges encourage it.  

Students can take either the ACT or the SAT unless the college they are applying requires one over the other (very few prefer one over the other).  Colleges look at these scores regardless of whether the student was taught in public school, private school or home schooled.  Both tests are offered on the computer or paper and pencil and the parent/student pays a fee each time a test is taken.  Both tests are offered 6 times per year, outside of the regular school day.

Here is some information you may need to know regarding the SAT and ACT:


  • Cost is between $45 and $57 depending on whether you take the writing portion
  • Testing time: About 3 hours for the entire test
  • There are 154 questions, not including the essay
  • Students are tested in Reading, Writing, Math, and Science and receive a composite score for each category.
  • The highest SAT score is a 1600
    • Florida State University requires a 560/640 on the Reading, Math and Writing portion
    • To find the requirements at your college of choice, click here.


  • Cost is $42.50 without the essay and $58.50 with the essay.
  • Testing time is just under 3 hours
  • The ACT includes 215 multiple-choice questions
  • Students are tested in Reading, Writing, Math, and Science and receive a composite score for each category.
  • The highest score on the ACT is a 36
    • Florida State requires an ACT composite score of a 25/29  
    • For more information on average ACT requirements for colleges click here.

If you want more information of which test to take, click here to see a comparison chart.

If you’re going to college, you should start preparing for these tests as soon as possible.  The PSAT can be taken as early as 8th grade.  Even though you may not have all the knowledge to take the test by then, you should begin to familiarize yourself with it.  
Best of luck!

Why The Boy in the Hoodie Needs Public Education


Somewhere there’s an AP Lit teacher dressed as Shakespeare so that he can greet his Seniors at 6am and get them excited for learning.  Somewhere there’s a theatre teacher who just turned the lights to her classroom out at 9pm just to turn them back on at 6:30am.  As she walks to her door, she sees a student sitting there with the same hoodie he wore yesterday, the same hoodie he wears everyday, earphones in and a look of darkness and despair.  She feels herself get heavy as she approaches him, a little because she has so much to do and can’t leave students in her room unattended but more because every morning he’s waiting by her door and every morning she lets him in, only to be greeted by coldness and silence.  Today he actually speaks, just to complain he has to start a Shakespeare unit in English, why does he have to learn about a guy wrote stupid love stories over 300 years ago?  The teacher gives a passionate response that includes themes and lessons and the fact that The Baird actually has a lot of provocative innuendos for those keen enough to pick up on them.  A smile cracks his lips as other students start to filter into the room.  

Ready or not, the show begins and the drama teacher puts on a 6 hour performance…. That’s what teaching is, or good teaching anyway.  You are on stage period after period giving the audience what they need and feeding off their energy to make it the greatest performance of all time.  The main difference between broadway and classroom teachers, is that every day there’s a new show with very little rehearsal time in between.  


After school the AP Lit teacher stops by the drama classroom to talk about the student.  He had his hoodie up and his earphones in all period, does this happen to every teacher or just him?  The AP Lit teacher goes on to explain how lively the lesson was, he was all dressed up for goodness sake.  Maybe he took it a little personal that this kid showed no interest but he was going to call home and speak with his mother.  Both teachers agreed that he should not be in AP classes if he’s not going to do the work and that his disconnected behavior is concerning.  They rang the number on file together but there was no answer.

The drama teacher thought about the boy in the hoodie all night.  She talked to her friends about him over dinner.  About how tired she was and how busy her mornings are, yet she finds herself consumed by him.  When her mother called, she mentioned her conversation with the AP Lit teacher… “I just don’t understand why he even comes to school if he doesn’t care!”  

And then, lying in bed thinking of ways to get through to him, it came to her.  He comes to school because it’s all he has. The boy in the hoodie met the drama teacher at her door at 6:30 the next morning.  She let him in as she always did and he had the usual tormented look.  She asked him about Shakespeare.  He told her that his teacher dressed up and it was really cool.  Cool?  He also mentioned that they would be reading the play Hamlet and that he actually liked plays.  Maybe he could be in her next production, behind the scenes or something?  He doesn’t have anything to do after school and he’s always there early.  “Yes,” was all she could say.  

The boy in the hoodie was her most reliable student and although she didn’t get her copies made every morning, and often had to listen to him go on about his other classes, she felt being there with him served a purpose greater than having a perfect lesson.  She always preferred the impromptu lessons anyway.  

The boy was socially awkward and often got bullied for wearing the same hoodie everyday.  He still put his earphones in and often got in trouble by his teachers for defiance.  His grades slipped and he failed all of his state tests, simply because he refused to take them.  Yet he was the drama teacher’s most reliable stagehand.  He arrived early (albeit too early) and she actually had to kick him out every evening.  He came to school everyday because it was better than the life he faced at home.

His father was an alcoholic and his mother left 3 days before the school year began.  His father lost his job, due to alcoholism and spent the day passed out, when he was actually home.  There were times he left for days at a time and the boy often wondered whether he would come back at all.  There was nobody to take him to the store and buy food for him and he had no means of washing his clothes.  He once stole money from another student’s backpack to pay the utility bill.  This is what he told a social worker when his case was finally investigated after no parental contact was made all year.  

The boy in the hoodie would continue to fight but school made him feel safe.  His drama teacher gave him a warm classroom to enter through everyday and through his role in the play, he had a purpose.  His AP Lit teacher made him smile and even when he was getting in trouble, he felt cared for.  School was his escape and his teachers were his saviors.  
This is what public education is for.

The Value of Teachers

Once, on vacation a friend asked me why teachers always seem to complain.  He knew I loved teaching and the question seemed to come from nowhere, but it stung.  “If you only knew,” I thought.  A million responses rang through my head; lack of support and resources, ridiculous evaluations for teachers and students, massive workload without compensation, but instead I said,

“I guess because they feel undervalued.”

Today, a teacher’s value revolves around accountability and data; It’s formulaic.  Teachers are expected to teach a specific way, using a framework chosen (and paid for) by their state.  If they don’t use this framework, they receive low evaluations which not only affects pay but public shame by being published on the internet.  They are given standards to teach, often scripted using resources also paid for by the state.  Finally, students are given tests, chosen and paid for by the State, which are supposed to align with those standards.  

Let’s put aside the validity of these tests and evaluation measures; who makes them, who edits them, who scores and derives data from them.  Let’s even turn our heads for a moment, to the politicians and stock owners who have found a way to profit off the intended failure of our students and teachers.  Instead, let’s focus on what happens to the value of a teacher under this model.

Do you remember the teacher who sat at her desk while you completed scripted worksheets?

Do you remember the teacher who kept a sterile classroom?

Do you remember the teacher who facilitated test, after test, after test?

Most people remember the teacher who brought lessons to life with passion and enthusiasm.  Who went off script and got them to care about issues outside of the classroom walls.  Most people remember the teacher who was well liked by current, former and even future students for being involved in clubs and activities that enhanced their school experience.  Students remember teachers who had warm classrooms, who cared for them and helped them, not because they were told to, but because that’s why they became a teacher.  It’s who they are.

You can’t tell a teacher to care less about her student’s individuality and more about standardizing them.  You can’t turn their passionate lessons into scripted workbooks.  You can’t take them away from their students just to redesign curriculum that inspired, changed, or motivated them to believe in themselves.  You can’t turn classrooms into testing labs and teachers into robots.  You can’t turn their students into numbers.

A teacher’s value lies in her students. Teachers are complaining to defend our nation’s kids, not their jobs.  Under the present model of profit through evaluation and data driven results, our schools become factories, our teachers become robots, and our kids become a product.  A numerical value resides where individual worth, importance, and usefulness once did.

Why You Must Defend Public Education

Three months ago, I quit my job as public school teacher… Not because I had tough students, because I did, and THEY WERE MY WHY.

Not because I had too many papers to grade or lessons to plan, because I did, but the growth of many, meant more than my personal time off.

Not because I wasn’t getting paid enough, or because my insurance benefits barely covered my health care, or because I felt undervalued…

I quit because education is no longer about our students, it’s about funding and profits.  

While many government officials argued for charter schools, Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, fought for public education. Unfortunately, this meant more regulations and public schools scrambled to train teachers on the new Common Core Standards and accommodate the testing required to show growth.

The tug-o-war for growth versus proficiency was literally fought in the classrooms of teachers trying to understand what exactly was expected of them.  Students suffered because teachers constantly had to adapt to these new changes sent down from politicians and lawmakers.  Teachers suffered because they were a one man dog and pony show and ultimately deprived of their pay raises and schools suffered as many didn’t receive funding.  

To say public education needs some help is an understatement, but the value of public education is strong.

The value of education comes from providing a safe, stable environment where our kids are taught by highly qualified teachers who lead them in creative, intellectual lessons necessary for college and most importantly, for life.  

No matter their background, students with varying abilities, from many religions and cultures are entitled to a free education in the hopes that our society will be better off due to an educated, civilized youth.  While students now seem to be becoming better at taking tests than engaging, we need to find a balance between accountability and preparing our kids for life.  

Defunding public school and replacing it with unregulated charter schools is not the answer to our problems in public education.  This has been proven time and time again, but most prominently by Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary.  In her home state of Michigan, Detroit’s shift to charter schools under the promise of “more choice” has left students without a stable place for education as many schools have closed taking parent and federal money with them.  Students at her Detroit schools have shown lower literacy rates, many reaching the 8th grade before they can read.  More options have meant shifting schools more than 20 times for primary students who are only seeking stability and qualified teachers.  Finally, students have been denied due to disabilities, both physical and intellectual creating civil rights violations.  Allowing schools to be selective is the definition of discrimination and will result in segregated schools again.  We cannot move backwards!  

Education is about opportunity.  We must defend public education and ensure that it continues to be a shelter to our passionate teachers and their students who are our future.