National Survey: Teen Abuse of OTC Cough Medicine Remains at Lowest Level

Washington, D.C. (December 16, 2015) — The results of the 2015 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey released today found that the percent of teens abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to get high remains at 3 percent. When first reported by Monitoring the Future in 2006, teen OTC cough medicine abuse was at just under 6 percent.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) works to reduce abuse following three strategies: increase teen perception of risk and social disapproval, increase parent engagement, and limit teen access to DXM.

“The results of this year’s Monitoring the Future survey demonstrate that prevention efforts are essential to keeping the abuse rate at its all-time low,” CHPA President and CEO Scott Melville said. “The industry remains committed to helping families and communities fight this behavior.”

CHPA and Partnership for Drug-Free Kids work together to reach teens by highlighting the social disapproval and side effects of cough medicine abuse behaviors.

“It’s gratifying to see DXM abuse remaining at very low levels, and to feel that the Partnership’s targeted communications efforts, in collaboration with the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, have helped teens see this behavior as risky – and pretty embarrassing, too” said Sean Clarkin, executive vice president, research and external relations, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

CHPA works to spread the word about the dangers of teen cough medicine abuse to parents through its Stop Medicine Abuse campaign.

“Parents have the power to help their teens make good decisions. 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 279 million times this year,” Melville said.

To restrict teen access to DXM, CHPA supported the passage of state laws prohibiting the sale of medicines containing DXM to those under 18.  Currently, Arizona, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington have all passed this legislation, three of which passed this year thanks to CHPA’s active engagement. CHPA strongly advocates for passage of national bipartisan legislation, the DXM Abuse Prevention (DAP) Act of 2015 (H.R. 3250). CHPA believes the 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 and resources on preventing teen OTC cough medicine abuse, visit

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) is the 134-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
  • provides toolkits, brochures, and other materials at no cost to engage parents and community leaders in the fight against teen cough medicine abuse.
  •’s Five Moms initiative brings together five moms (a school nurse, a social marketer, an educator, a community advocate 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 DXM Abuse Prevention (DAP) Act of 2015 (H.R. 3250).
  • CHPA member companies placed a “PARENTS: Learn About Teen Medicine Abuse –” 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 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


Contact: Jenni Roberson 202.429.9260