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Survey shows teen misuse of O-T-C cough medicine remains very low

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WASHINGTON — The 2018 results from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and University of Michigan’s annual drug abuse survey, Monitoring the Future, were released today showing that the percentage of teens using over-the-counter (O-T-C) cough medicine containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to get high remains at 3 %. When first reported in 2006, the number of teens abusing O-T-C cough medicines was nearly twice that amount but has declined significantly since then.

Scott Melville

For years, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) has worked to help reduce teen DXM abuse by employing three strategies: increasing parent education and engagement in abuse awareness and prevention; heightening teen perceptions of the risks and social disapproval of medicine abuse; and limiting teen access to DXM through age-18 sales restrictions in states. In 2008, CHPA member companies voluntarily placed a “PARENTS: Learn About Teen Medicine Abuse” icon on the packaging of cough medicines containing DXM. The icon directs parents to StopMedicineAbuse.org – a well-established website and abuse prevention campaign started by CHPA which aims to engage parents and community leaders about teen abuse of OTC cough medicine.

“This year marks 10 years since CHPA member companies voluntarily included the Parents icon on DXM product packaging,” said CHPA president and chief executive officer Scott Melville. “The icon serves as a mini public service announcement for parents, making them aware of cough medicine abuse at the point-of-sale and point-of-use. It’s our belief that the icon, along with public education and state age restriction laws, have made an enormous impact on abuse rates over the years, while ensuring continued access for millions of families who responsibly use medicines containing DXM.”

CHPA also collaborates with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids to target teens who are most likely to abuse DXM based on their online search activity and to provide them with accurate information about the consequences of abusive behavior. Teens are directed to visit WhatIsDXM.com to learn more.

“We are glad to again see that there’s been no increase in high school students’ misuse of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines,” said Fred Muench, president and chief executive officer of Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “Together with CHPA, we have partnered on prevention efforts targeting this behavior and have seen steady and significant declines in teens’ misuse of cough medicine over the length of our decade-long collaboration.”

Please visit StopMedicineAbuse.org for more information about teen DXM abuse, retailer education materials, and other helpful resources for parents and community leaders.


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