Are Your Grandchildren Abusing Your Meds?

One in 10 American teens has abused a prescription drug to get high.

By Rachel Boll

Skittling. Roboing. Robotripping. What may sound like a description of your grandchild's latest playdate with Nintendo Wii, is actually code for another growing — and more threatening — trend: over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription-drug abuse.

Prescription-drug abuse has ballooned in the past decade. More than 11 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds admit to having misused them according to research by the Drug-Free Action Alliance in 2006. And, one out of 10 teens (more than 2 million nationwide) has used an OTC drug to get high as reported in a Partnership for a Drug-Free America tracking study.

It's no surprise that dope is not something with which we want our grandchildren mixing. There are, however, not-so-obvious dangers in your everyday medicine cabinet that can unintentionally cause harm. What's worse, some teens may be stashing away unguarded and easily-accessible prescription or OTC drugs for the purpose of getting high. Keep this list top-of-mind when it comes to your medicine cabinet and keeping your grandchildren safe.

OTC Drugs

Research by the National Consumers League has shown that more than 16,500 people die each year (and 103,000 are hospitalized) due to complications with non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs such as Advil and Aleve. Sure, the recommended dosage of one or two pills may relieve a throbbing headache; but, if your grandchild mistakes the brick-red or royal-blue pills for candy and pops a slew each time he or she comes over, your grandchild could potentially suffer from stomach bleeding or ulcers in the long run.

Cough medicine is another seemingly harmless drug that has recently proved popular among teens experimenting with and abusing OTC drugs.

Cough syrup contains dextromethorphan, often referred to as DXM, an active ingredient found in non-prescription cough syrups, gel caps, and tablets. When it's abused or downed in copious amounts it can cause a "high" feeling and even confusion, dizziness, blurred vision, slurred speech, stomach pain, vomiting, rapid heart beat, and drowsiness.

More than 100 OTC medicines contain dextromethorphan. At press time these include:

• Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold & Cough Medicine
• Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold
• Dayquil LiquiCaps
• Dimetapp DM
• Robitussin cough products
• Sudafed cough products
• Triaminic cough syrups
• Tylenol Cold products
• Vicks 44 Cough Relief products and Vicks Nyquil LiquiCaps
• There also are a number of store-bought brands that contain DXM

Other OTC drugs containing active ingredients that can produce dangerous highs include nasal decongestants, antidiarrheal medications, and antihistamines. Their ingredients (pseudoephedrine, loperamide, and diphenhydramine) can produce opiate-like effects when taken in excessive amounts.

Prescription Drugs

Whether you have codeine, estrogen or thyroid medication, it's best to take inventory of every drug you're currently taking before the grandchildren arrive. Then, store them out-of-reach. One prescription to be particularly mindful of is Vicodin.

As anyone who's had invasive surgery can attest to, Vicodin is an effective pain reliever. In high doses, however, the drug can blur vision and hearing, often leading to stomach pain, numbness and hallucinations, which makes it a prime target for experimental teens.

Keep in mind that the generic ingredients for Vicodin are hydrocodone and acetaminophen, and the combination of these drugs can be found in many other brand names, including:

• Vicodin and Vicodin ES
• Lortab
• Anexsia
• Zydone
• Lorcet

Checking labels to see where highly-addictive ingredients, such as Vicodin, appear is an important step in any medicine-cabinet safety check.

Lock It Up

So now you've rid the medicine cabinet of old and unused drugs. You've taken inventory of everything in your cabinet and stored your tallies somewhere safe. And you're sure not to leave medicine around where a little one can reach it. Now what?

The manufacturing company Jensen makes a lockbox medicine cabinet that has a small locked compartment within the cabinet where you can safely store meds. Securing your medicine cabinet may be the surest way to keep little, curious — and experimental — hands from getting into harm's way.

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