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For the average teenager, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are becoming increasingly mainstream when it comes to getting high. OTC drug products are widely available and can be purchased at supermarkets, drug stores, convenience stores, etc. Many OTC drugs that are designed to treat headaches, sinus pressure, or cold/flu symptoms are the ones that teens are using to get high, and contain the active ingredient dextromethorphan (DXM). There are more than 80 therapeutic categories of OTC drugs, ranging from acne drug products to weight control drug products. As with prescription drugs, the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research oversees OTC drugs to ensure that they are properly labeled and that their benefits outweigh their risks.
A recent study found that 7 percent of 12th graders reported past year abuse of cough or cold medicines to get high. Another recent study estimates nearly 500,000 emergency department visits involved nonmedical use (i.e., misuse or abuse) of prescription drugs or OTC pharmaceuticals or dietary supplements. Multiple drugs were involved in more than half (57 percent) of these emergency room visits.
Teens can buy over-the-counter medicines at any supermarket, drug store, or convenience store where cough and cold medicine is sold. They can also get them from any medicine cabinet they have access to, or order over the Internet. To get high, teens may take more than the dosage outlined to treat the ailment and abuse other OTC or prescription medications at the same time. Teens may also crush pills and snort them for an intensified effect.
Depending on the type of OTC medication and additional drug pairings during use, your teen may experience:
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