While prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines serve an important role when used under a doctor’s care, the misuse of these medicines is a growing problem among today’s youth. According to the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), every day, almost 2,500 teens abuse a prescription medicine for the first time. As a parent, are prescription drug and over-the-counter cough medicine abuse on your radar? Here are six tips for preventing kids from abusing prescription and over-the-counter medicines:

  1. Establish open lines of communication. It’s important to establish an open dialogue with your children to discuss safe methods for coping with stress, fatigue, heavy academic and athletic demands and peer pressure so they don’t look to over-the-counter or prescription medicines to cope.
  2. Set clear expectations. According to The Partnership at Drugfree.org, parents need to make it clear to children that they have a no-tolerance policy when it comes to drugs or medicine abuse. Any time you give your child medicine, you should explain what the medicine is and reinforce when it is appropriate to use this medicine.
  3. Know the warning signs. According to Stop Medicine Abuse the warning signs of OTC cough medicine abuse could include empty bottles or packages of cough medicine in your child’s backpack or trash, loss of interest in activities, changes in friends and declining grades, physical appearance or daily habits.
  4. Educate yourself on the symptoms. The symptoms of medicine abuse are subject to the particular medicine being abused. For a list of over-the-counter cough medicine abuse signs and symptoms, visit www.stopmedicineabuse.org.
  5. Monitor your medicine cabinet. Take preventative steps to protect your children by monitoring the family medicine cabinet and maintaining an inventory of all medicines.
  6. Monitor internet usage periodically. Kids can easily find information online about how to abuse over-the-counter medicines so make sure you know what they’re looking at online.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brooke Bokor, MD, MPH, is a double board-certified Assistant Professor in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children's National Health System. Her practice at the Sheikh Zayed Campus for Advanced Children's Medicine focuses on primary and consultative care for adolescents ages 12-21, as well as inpatient care.

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