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Warning Signs of Teen OTC Drug Use

Your teen has been acting strange lately. He seems moody, stays up late at night, and has difficulty getting up in the morning. He's suddenly more interested in art than sports, and has started hanging out with a different crowd. What's up - is he doing drugs?

Unfortunately, it may be hard to tell. Some behaviors that make parents suspicious about drug use may be normal teen responses to the numerous developmental changes that occur during adolescence. If your child is generally doing fine - getting along with friends and family, performing well in school, and is involved in sports or other activities - you probably have little to worry about. But if she seems depressed, withdrawn, or overly angry, you should take a closer look. Some red flags for OTC drug use include:

  • Visits to pro-drug Internet sites that have information about how to obtain and use OTC drugs to get high
  • Changes in interests and hobbies
  • Disrupted sleeping patterns
  • Missing medications from the medicine cabinet, especially cough and cold preparations
  • Empty cough syrup bottles or cold blister packs among personal effects or in the car
  • Changes in friends, appearance, hygiene, or behavior
  • Negative changes in school performance such as missing school or declining grades
  • ncreased secrecy about activities or possessions
  • Changes in conversations with friends, such as increased secrecy or talking in "coded" language
Any of these changes, and especially several of them together, may suggest that your child is experimenting with OTC medications. If you suspect drug use, it's important to talk to your child immediately.