With tougher laws restricting access to alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs, a rising trend among adolescents is to raid their parents’ medicine cabinet in an attempt to get high.

Additionally, teenage males show an increased risk of documenting longtime use of over-the-counter drugs, compared with teenage females, according to a new study being presented at the 140th annual meeting of The American Public Health Association in San Francisco.

The study looked at over-the-counter (OTC) drug use of 7th to 12th graders in 133 schools in Cincinnati. During the 2009-2010 Pride Survey on youth drug use in America, data was gathered via survey, distributed to 54,000 students.

Early examination found that 10 percent of students surveyed, documented abusing over-the-counter drugs. The findings of this study confirm OTC drugs as a rising and important health issue affecting adolescents.

Common OTC drugs used are cough syrups containing Dextromethorphan (DXM) and decongestants. High rates of OTC medication use were also seen among middle school aged male and female students.

OTC medication abuse can lead to unintentional poisoning, seizures, and psychological and physical additions.

Excess amounts of cough syrups with dextromethorphan can cause a hallucinogenic high often referred to as “Robo-tripping”. Side effects include halluciogens, loss of motor control, and even death. In previous studies, teenagers have admitted to Robo-tripping because it is legal, available without a prescription, and cheap.

Parents can prevent DMX abuse by their children by:

  • Educating children about the dangers of drug abuse
  • Controlling access to cough and cold medications
  • Keeping medications out of reach of children
  • Becoming familiar with and not stockpiling medications that contain DMX
  • Monitoring child’s internet use
  • Monitoring credit card statements

The investigators say that adolescents who documented participation in positive activities such as sports, school clubs, and community and church organizations, were less inclined to reporting abusing medications.

Youths more likely to document OTC abuse were also more likely to report that they went to parties with the drugs or had friends who abused OTC medications.

Written by Kelly Fitzgerald