National Survey Finds Teen Abuse of OTC Cough Medicine At All-Time Low

Industry committed to continuing prevention initiatives to keep abuse rates down

Washington, D.C. (December 16, 2014) — Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) President and CEO Scott Melville issued the following statement regarding the 2014 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey, which reported 3 percent of  teens abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to get high. Abuse of OTC cough medicine has been on a steady decline since Monitoring the Future first reported it at just under 6 percent in 2006.

CHPA’s efforts to reduce abuse focus on three strategies that research shows influence teens’ decisions not to abuse substances: peer perception of risk and social disapproval, parental involvement, and reduced teen access to medicines.

“Three percent is a significant breakthrough for the industry, and it inspires us to honor the commitment we made to continue educational campaigns to prevent OTC cough medicine abuse.

“The results of this year’s Monitoring the Future survey demonstrate that prevention efforts make a difference.  While the data show fewer teens are abusing, any abuse of this medicine is concerning.

“Our teen education campaign, in collaboration with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, highlights the social disapproval and side effects of cough medicine abuse behaviors. This year, we expanded our outreach to teens by launching a mobile app called DXMLabworks and a revamped, mobile- and search-optimized website called WhatIsDXM.com. To date, 5.5 million teens have directly engaged with campaign content by watching, downloading, playing, sharing, and commenting.

“In addition, we continue to educate parents about the importance of talking to teens and safeguarding their medicines through the Stop Medicine Abuse campaign. Through online engagement with parents, media coverage, and collaboration with the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America we reached parents and community leaders more than 350 million times this year.

“On the legislative front, CHPA supported the passage of state laws prohibiting the sale of medicines containing DXM to those under 18.  Currently, Arizona, California, Louisiana, New York, Virginia, and Washington have all passed this legislation, four of which passed this year thanks to CHPA’s active engagement. CHPA strongly advocates for passage of national bipartisan legislation, the Preventing Abuse of Cough Treatments Act (PACT Act; S. 644, H.R. 3969).  This bill is one way to limit teen access to the medicines and is an important part of prevention along with educating teens about the risks and mobilizing parents to talk to their teens and safeguard the medicines in their home.”

For more information on preventing teen cough medicine abuse, including free brochures, visit StopMedicineAbuse.org.

Contact Jenni Terry 202.429.9260


The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) is the 133-year-old trade association representing the leading manufacturers and marketers of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and dietary supplements. Every dollar spent by consumers on OTC medicines saves the U.S. healthcare system $6-$7, contributing a total of $102 billion in savings each year. CHPA is committed to promoting the increasingly vital role of over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements in America’s healthcare system through science, education, and advocacy.

About CHPA’s Stop Medicine Abuse Campaign

  • StopMedicineAbuse.org provides toolkits, brochures, and other materials at no cost to engage parents and community leaders in the fight against teen cough medicine abuse.
  • StopMedicineAbuse.org’s Five Moms initiative brings together five moms (a school nurse, an accountant, a police officer, an educator, and an author) from across the country to raise awareness of OTC cough medicine abuse among parents and to spur them to action – to educate themselves, to talk with their children, to safeguard their medicines, and to spread the word to other parents.
  • Through the Stop Medicine Abuse legislative action center, parents and other advocates who support a federal age-18 sales restriction of DXM can send a letter of support for the Prevent Abuse of Cough Treatments (PACT) Act.
  • CHPA member companies placed a “PARENTS: Learn About Teen Medicine Abuse – www.StopMedicineAbuse.org” icon on the packaging of DXM-containing cough medicines.  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 and directing them to StopMedicineAbuse.org resources.
  • CHPA collaborates with Partnership for Drug-Free Kids to target teens likely to abuse DXM based on their online search activity and provide them accurate information about the consequences of this behavior. For more information, visit WhatIsDXM.com.