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Which is Most Popular Among Teens: Street Drugs or OTC Drugs?

You may have seen the reports: Teen use of drugs such as marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamines is down. But over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs are becoming the new "party" drugs among teens, especially younger teens. In fact, one in every five teens has abused a prescription pain medication, prescription stimulants, or tranquilizers. And at least one in 10 teens reports using cough medicine in order to get high.

There are many reasons for the growing popularity of OTC drugs among today's teens. These children have heard messages throughout their lives about the dangers of illegal/street drugs, and illegal drugs are on parents' radar screens. Most kids have learned from their parents that there are serious consequences involved in using these drugs, such as loss of parental respect, suspension of driver's license, and missing out on college admissions and scholarships.

But in the eyes of many teens, recreational use of OTC drugs is a safe and harmless pastime. Why? Most experts believe it comes down to awareness and access. How many drug advertisements do you see and hear every day on the radio, television, in magazines, and on the Internet? As new products are released, they are heavily advertised to educate consumers on their existence and their ability to treat a number of conditions. And consumers are becoming more comfortable with taking medications for everything from stomach upset to sleeping disorders and impotence.

Unfortunately, a teen's access to OTC medications is as close as the nearest medicine cabinet. Teens find OTC preparations for pain, sleep, motion sickness, and cough and colds in their own houses and those of friends and family members - at very little or no cost.

The Internet provides further access to and awareness of OTC drugs. There are disreputable sites that promote the use of ingredients found in certain medications, such as dextromethorphan (DXM) found in cough and cold medications. Kids can easily access information about where to find DXM, how much to take to achieve the desired effect, and where to buy it.

It's time for parents to cut down the popularity of OTC medication use. You need to educate yourself about the dangers of OTC drug use and then use that information to educate your child. As a parent, you owe it to your child to protect him from the dangers he may encounter in our rapidly changing world.