October is National Medicine Awareness month for good reason — the nonmedical use and eventual abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs plagues people of nearly all ages and their families. Children as young as age 12 have admitted to nonmedical use of prescription and nonprescription drugs like cough syrup, while many adults also abuse prescribed medicines like opioid, barbiturates, and stimulants.
Here are a few fast facts you should know about medicine abuse in America, especially if you’re a parent of teens or adolescents.
- A 2014 SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed more than 4.3 million Americans aged 12 and over had reported using prescription pain relievers for nonmedical use.
- Another survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse revealed that 20 percent of teens admitted to using prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them. Another 5 percent admitted to abusing OTC cough medications containing dextromethorphan (DXM), the active ingredient in nearly all common non-prescription cough medicines.
- Excessive amounts of DXM results in serious side effects such as nausea, vomiting, heart arrhythmia, hypertension and problems with memory.
- Signs of pain medicine abuse include vomiting, constipation, slowed breathing rate, confusion, drowsiness, a significantly decreased size in pupils, and increased pain requiring higher doses.
- People who smoke, snort or inject pain medicines get a more intense high than those who take them conventionally, which can lead to a number of problems including breathing issues.
- Symptoms of sedative abuse may include slurred speech, unsteady balance or walking, dizziness, confusion, trouble concentrating, slowed breathing, and memory problems.
- Stimulant abuse often results in symptoms such as reduced appetite, agitation, heart arrhythmia, anxiety, paranoia, and increased body temperature.
- Continued abuse of any prescribed medicine has serious consequences including overdose, addiction, coma, and death.
If you suspect someone you love could be abusing prescription or OTC medicines, getting them help can save their lives. Learn how to help them quit by talking with your doctor or by calling the National Drug Helpline.