3 Important Signs of Medicine Abuse in Teens


Roughly one out of three teenagers know someone who has abused over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine to get high. There are many reasons a teenager will choose to abuse medications – for example, they might abuse medicines because they want to “look cool” or as a result of peer pressure, stress, or bullying.

teen medicine abuse

Many teens don’t know about – or simply underestimate – the risk of OTC medicine abuse. Many teens also see OTC medicine abuse as less risky than the abuse of other substances, which is not the case. Taking excessive amounts of cough medicine can result in side effects including impaired vision, stomach pain, nausea/vomiting, and disorientation.

Awareness Makes a Difference

That said, we are not without hope. In fact, teens who learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are 50 percent less likely to use drugs. This is why it is essential that parents educate themselves on the dangers of medicine abuse and monitor their teen’s behavior for warning signs of abuse.

Here are some of the signs you should look out for:

Changes in your teen’s behavior

  • Loss of interest in hobbies or favorite activities
  • Changes in friends, physical appearance or sleeping or eating patterns
  • Declining grades
  • Hostile and uncooperative attitude
  • Use of certain slang terms for DXM abuse, such as skittles, skittling, tussin, robo-tripping, robo, CCC, triple Cs, dexing and DXM
  • Purchase or use of large amounts of cough medicine when your teen isn’t sick

Changes in your household

  • Missing boxes or bottles of medicine from home medicine cabinets
  • Unexplained disappearance of household money
  • Unusual chemical or medicinal smells on your teen or in his or her room
  • Empty cough medicine boxes or bottles in the trash of your teen’s room or in your his or her backpack or school locker

Changes in your teen’s internet activity

  • Visiting pro-drug websites that provide information on how to abuse DXM
  • Internet orders, the arrival of unexpected packages or unexplained payments by credit card or PayPal account

As parents, the health and safety of our children always comes first and, let’s face it, even the best kids make bad decisions. Educating yourself on what medicine abuse looks like and the corresponding risks is the first step to ensuring your teen does not fall victim to this dangerous behavior.

Be informed about the dangers of medicine abuse. Once you are fully informed and comfortable with the facts, you’ll be able to discuss your concerns with your teen with more ease. Remember to have conversations instead of lectures. This is essential to building an open and honest relationship with your teen.