spoonful of cough medicine

By Tammy Walsh of The Five Moms

Did you know that one in three teens knows someone who has abused DXM to get high?

Even more startling, approximately one in 25 teens reports abusing excessive amounts of DXM to get high—sometimes ingesting more than 25 times the recommended dose of these medicines.

You might be asking yourself, “What is DXM?” Dextromethorphan (DXM) is an ingredient found in many over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines. It is safe and effective when used as directed, but can produce harmful side effects when abused and taken in excess.

Many parents emphasize talking with their teens about the dangers of abusing substances such as alcohol and marijuana, but cough medicine abuse often slips under the radar. Join the fight to prevent medicine abuse during National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month in October and educate yourself and others about this dangerous teen trend.

Here are some ways you can get involved at home and motivate your community to help end medicine abuse:

  1. Have a conversation with your teen. Teens who learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are 50 percent less likely to use drugs, so talk with your teen about the side effects of cough medicine abuse. You can also visit WhatisDXM.com with your teen and listen to real stories from young people who tried abusing cough medicine. Additionally, you can offer your teen tips for resisting and standing up against peer pressure, as your son or daughter may be influenced by his or her social circles to abuse OTC cough medicine.
  2. Participate in the #ToMyTeen campaign. Research shows that teens who are validated by their parents are more confident and more resistant to peer pressure, which can include the pressure to participate in dangerous activities such as cough medicine abuse. The #ToMyTeen campaign was created to inspire a conversation among parents about what is positive and rewarding about raising teens today. Share what makes you proud to be raising a teen! (And remind your teen that, while you may get frustrated at times, at the end of the day you are always proud to be his or her parent).
  3. Share resources and inform other adults about teen medicine abuse. Visit StopMedicineAbuse.org to find toolkits for educators, parents, law enforcement officials, school nurses, community leaders and retailers/pharmacists. The toolkits include fact sheets, presentations and other resources to help you start the conversation about teen medicine abuse. You can also host an event in your community to talk about substance abuse, treatment and intervention strategies.
  4. Help to get the PACT Act on the agenda. Several states have already passed legislation to prevent the sale of products containing DXM to minors, making it harder for teens to purchase these products for misuse. Make sure your state joins the effort by asking your representatives to co-sponsor the “Preventing Abuse of Cough Treatments Act” (the PACT Act).
  5. Get involved with your local chapter of Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America (CADCA). Community coalitions are comprised of parents, teachers, businesses and other community activists who are working to make their communities safer, healthier and drug-free.

Education and awareness are key to preventing teen medicine abuse. October is the month to start this important conversation. You are also invited to join the Stop Medicine Abuse community on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news, updates and advice dealing with teens and medicine abuse.


TammyTammy is a mother of two, a high school math teacher and a contributor to The Five Moms blog on StopMedicineAbuse.org. Tammy has a passion for addressing the issue of substance abuse openly and honestly with parents and teens. Through her work with The Five Moms, she hopes to reach more parents on a national level, educating and empowering them with the tools to make positive change in their communities. Join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.