Do you know about cough medicine abuse?

We’re hearing a lot of scary stuff these days about crazy new drugs and worst of all, the cheapness and ease of obtaining heroin. More than ever we are scared for our children’s futures when their lives can turn on a dime. What we’re learning is that the new gateway to heavy drug use is through the family medicine cabinet. Both prescription medications and even over-the-counter drugs such as cough medicine are quick, easy highs. You need to know about this.

The following is a guest blog written by Becky Dyer of the Five Moms whose mission is to raise awareness of cough medicine abuse. Becky addresses the questions we all have about how to approach our kids if you suspect they are abusing.

Image for Becky's Blog Post

How to Approach Your Teen if You Suspect Cough Medicine Abuse

Our teens have a lot going on. They are juggling classes, extracurricular activities, family and friends, while also trying to figure out their own identities. This balancing act can be a source of anxiety for our teens, which can potentially lead them to engage in risky activities in order to find some stress relief. Such activities, like underage drinking and smoking, are usually at the forefront of parents’ minds when they think about what drugs teens are choosing to experiment with, but cough medicine abuse is not often on the typical parent’s radar. But it should be. Especially considering that one out of 25 teens reports abusing over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine to get high and roughly one out of three teenagers knows someone who has abused cough medicine to get high.

As a parent, it can be overwhelming to think about looking out for yet another dangerous activity your teen may be engaging in, but we aren’t hopeless.

The first step to combating teen cough medicine abuse is to familiarize yourself with the warning signs:

  • Empty cough medicine boxes or bottles in the trash of your teen’s room, car, backpack or school locker
  • Your teen’s purchase or use of large amounts of cough medicine when he or she isn’t sick
  • Missing boxes or bottles of medicine from home medicine cabinets
  • Hearing your teen use certain slang terms for DXM abuse, such as skittles, skittling, tussin, robo-tripping, robo, CCC, triple Cs, dexing and DXM
  • Noticing that your teen has visited pro-drug websites that provide information on how to abuse DXM
  • Unusual internet orders, the arrival of unexpected packages, or unexplained payments for a credit card or PayPal account
  • Changes in your teen’s friends, physical appearance, sleeping or eating patterns
  • Declining grades
  • Your teen’s loss of interest in his or her hobbies or favorite activities
  • A hostile and uncooperative attitude
  • Unexplained disappearance of household money

While some of these warning signs may appear to be normal, angsty teenage behavior, be sure to follow your natural instincts. If you find something that leads you to believe that your teen may be abusing medicine, here are some ways you can approach your teen about it:

  • Have a direct conversation: Medicine abuse is a serious issue that needs to be addressed both immediately and directly. Find a time that is conducive for both you and your teen to sit down and have an open discussion. Be sure to provide your teen with specific reasons as to why you have been led to believe that he or she is abusing cough medicine. By presenting concrete evidence, you are showing your teen that you are genuinely concerned about his or her recent behavior without coming across as attacking your teen’s character.
  • Set firm expectations: It’s important that your teen is aware of your stance on drug abuse and the potential consequences that will follow if he or she abuses. The expectations you set should provide your teen with an opportunity to learn exactly why they should not be engaging in risky behaviors, such as cough medicine abuse. Additionally, new-found knowledge of these issues may decrease your teen’s likelihood to become a repeat offender.
  • Seek help and support: It’s normal to be hesitant about seeking help and support from others after discovering that your teen may be abusing medicine because, as a parent, you feel as if you know your teen best. However, you should never feel like you have to deal with your teen’s drug use alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your teen’s teachers, school counselors, doctor and anyone else involved in your teen’s life for advice during this difficult period of time.

Unfortunately, it is inevitable that your teen will be encouraged to engage in risky behaviors at some point or another. There are, however, steps you can make sure your teen makes positive decisions. First, educate yourself. Then, figure out how you will approach your teen about difficult to discuss issues such as medicine abuse, if the need ever arises.

Visit to learn more about cough medicine abuse and how to start this difficult conversation with your teen.

Becky Dyer is a mother of one, deputy officer and a contributor to the Five Moms blog. The Five Moms’ mission is to spread awareness about teen cough medicine abuse by openly talking about the challenges parents of teens face and offering from-the-heart advice on how everyone can work to prevent OTC cough medicine abuse in homes and communities. Join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.