You have a suspicion that your teen is experimenting with over-the-counter drugs. Or maybe you're simply worried that she may use drugs - if not now, then later. What can parents do to protect their teens from OTC drug use?
First, get educated. Knowledge is power, and learning everything you can about the problem will put you in the best position to help your child. Did you know that kids as young as 12 years of age are using OTC medications to relieve anxiety, stress, or pain, and simply to get high? In fact, one in every 11 teens has admitted to getting high on cough medicine. Kids don't realize that getting high on OTC drugs is not safer than getting high on illegal street drugs. OTC drugs can be dangerous, and addictive.
And unlike illegal street drugs, children don't have to look far to find OTC drugs. A couple feet away is your medicine cabinet, full of pain medications, sleep aids, diet pills, motion sickness remedies, and cough and cold formulas. These drugs are easily accessible - much easier for your teen than having to find out who uses or sells street drugs like marijuana.
The Internet, while a good source of information about the risks of drugs, is also a source of information for your child about how to use OTC drugs for recreational purposes. Many websites describe what kind of medication to buy and how much to take to get high. Kids can also buy OTC medications online.
The best way to prevent teen OTC drug use is to share the information you've learned. Kids should be taught to respect medications and to understand that they can be a powerful tool for health care, but dangerous if used for purposes or in amounts other than those intended. Your child should also understand that there are serious consequences involved with OTC drug abuse, such as losing the respect of family and friends, getting his driver's license suspended, and missing out on select college admissions or financial aid for secondary education.
It's important for parents to monitor their teen's activities and whereabouts. Don't be afraid to ask the who, what, when, and where questions. And make a few calls to confirm their story. If your child is going to a sleepover or a party, call the host parents and make sure they will be there supervising the fun.
Lastly, parents must set an example. We live in a society in which pharmaceuticals are available for every ailment. Use OTC medications sparingly and only for the purposes they are intended. If you are not in need of OTC drugs right now, keep them out of your teen's reach, just in case.