Makers of OTC Medicines Raise Awareness About Medication Abuse

Launch Comprehensive Communications Campaign with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America

Washington, D.C. (May 16, 2006)—The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) today unveiled a multi-pronged effort to curb the abuse of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and draw public attention to this troubling substance abuse trend among teenagers. A major component of this initiative is a national public awareness campaign created in cooperation with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

Research conducted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America shows that teens across the nation are looking to their family medicine cabinets in an effort to get high. In addition to certain prescription drugs, a surprising number of teens are intentionally abusing OTC cough medicines containing dextromethorphan. This form of abuse involves taking extreme amounts of cough medicine to get high.

Dual press conferences held today in Washington, D.C., and New York, brought together a team of professionals all focused on curbing OTC and prescription medicine abuse. CHPA President Linda A. Suydam, D.P.A, was joined in Washington by Roy Bostock, chairman, and Steven J. Pasierb, president and CEO, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America; Michael D. Maves, M.D., M.B.A., executive vice president & CEO, American Medical Association; and John Walters, director, U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy. CHPA Vice President, Communications & Strategic Initiatives, Virginia A. Cox was joined in New York City by Tom Hedrick, director and founding member, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, and Terry Horton, M.D., medical director, Phoenix House.

"It’s important that parents understand that that their children may be abusing—by taking exceedingly higher doses than what is recommended—the very medicines that we use to safely and effectively treat common everyday ailments," said Linda Suydam, president of CHPA. "The goal of the OTC medicine makers in supporting this campaign is to make parents more aware and encourage them to talk to their kids so we can put a stop to this abuse and prevent it from continuing.”

In 2003, CHPA and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America created an initiative to ensure that adults with influence and oversight over young people are aware that teens may be considering cough medicine abuse. Today, CHPA and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America are expanding these efforts to provide accurate information to parents and teens about the dangers of medicine abuse. Specifically, the two organizations are:

  • Launching a national, research-based media campaign—with TV, radio, and print public service announcements—to raise awareness about the risks of cough medicine abuse;
  • Distributing an educational brochure for parents, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Teen Cough Medicine Abuse, in both English and Spanish;
  • Providing parent-oriented resources on www.drugfree.org with information on dextromethorphan abuse: how to recognize it, how to prevent it, and how to stop it;
  • Operating a teen web site with peer-to-peer testimonials (www.dxmstories.com) to educate this population on the dangers of dextromethorphan abuse; and
  • Reaching out with information to a variety of organizations, including parent groups, education associations, health professional societies, and law enforcement.

Steven J. Pasierb, president and CEO of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, echoed the need for an aggressive media campaign aimed at educating parents. "What we’ve got here is a case of bad behavior with good medicine. The research tells us teens mistakenly view medicine abuse as safe. The new campaign recognizes that parents play a critical role both in educating their children and preventing this dangerous behavior.”

“CHPA and its members have shown a genuine commitment to alerting parents to the potential health risks their teens face if they abuse medicines intentionally to get high,” continued Pasierb. “This communications effort serves as a call to action for parents to educate themselves and safeguard the medicines in their homes.”
In addition to this media effort, CHPA is aggressively promoting and encouraging legislative efforts to prevent the unapproved sale and distribution of unfinished (bulk) dextromethorphan sold over the Internet.

Contacts: Elizabeth Assey and Virginia Cox, 202.429.9260


CHPA is the 125-year-old trade association representing U.S. manufacturers and distributors of over-the-counter medicines and nutritional supplement products.