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Misconceptions About OTC and Prescription Drug Use

Research has shown that when it comes to human behavior, attitudes have a major influence on our actions. And when it comes to drugs, how a teen perceives the risks of taking a drug - physical, emotional, and social - has everything to do with whether or not he will take it. What do teenagers think about over-the-counter (OTC) drugs?

Many teens today believe there are few physical risks involved with OTC drug use. Since childhood, they have been given medications by their parents to relieve pain, reduce symptoms of colds and allergies, and soothe an upset stomach. OTC medications are everywhere - in grocery stores, drug stores, and in the medicine cabinet at home. Kids believe that because OTC drugs are legal and easily accessible, they are safe.

The truth: OTC drugs can be harmful, even deadly, when used in excess. They can also be addictive.

Few kids consider the emotional risks of taking OTC drugs. Many teens start experimenting with these medications in order to relieve stress or anxiety, or to fit in.

The truth: Using OTC drugs is not cool. OTC drug use often makes problems worse, not better.

As many as a third of teens, especially younger teens, believe that taking OTC drugs is socially acceptable. They see people taking these medications all of the time, so what's the difference?

The truth: It's not okay to use OTC medications in quantities or for purposes other than those intended. Teens should never use OTC medications without checking with a parent or an adult first.

Teens may think that because they're legal, there are no negative consequences that can result from using OTC medications. They assume the use of OTC drugs won't cause problems for them in the future.

The truth: Abusing OTC drugs can lead to severe legal consequences, such as loss of driver's license, loss of college scholarships, and denial of admission into college. OTC drug abuse also can have a huge impact on future career aspirations.