A new study warns that parents may want to lock up their medicine cabinets as youth turn to drugs that are easily accessible.
Researchers discovered more stringent enforcement of alcohol and tobacco sales and a heighten effort to combat access to illicit drugs has led teens to turn to over-the-counter drugs.
Moreover, the new University of Cincinnati study suggests adolescent males are at a higher risk of reporting longtime use of over-the-counter drugs, compared with their female peers.
Rebecca Vidourek, Ph.D., and Keith King, Ph.D., examined over-the-counter (OTC) drug use among 7th – 12th grade students in 133 schools across Greater Cincinnati.
The data was collected by the Coalition for a Drug Free Greater Cincinnati as part of the 2009-2010 Pride Survey on adolescent drug use in America. The survey was distributed to more than 54,000 students.
Early analysis found that 10 percent of the students reported abusing over-the-counter drugs — common things like cough syrup and decongestants.
“Findings from this study highlight and underscore OTC drugs as an increasing and significant health issue affecting young people,” said Vidourek, who adds that commonly abused OTC medications include cough syrup containing dextromethorphan (DXM), and decongestants.
The researchers say that high rates of OTC use were also found among male and female junior high school students.
OTC abuse can result in unintentional poisoning, seizures and physical and psychological addictions, said Vidourek.
Researchers discovered participation in sports, community events and church activities appeared to buffer OTC medication abuse.
Teens more likely to report taking OTC drugs were also more likely to report that they had attended parties with the drugs or had friends who abused OTC drugs.
The Pride Survey is a national survey that provides an independent assessment of adolescent drug use, violence and other behaviors.
Survey findings were presented at the 140th annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in San Francisco.
Source: University of Cincinnati