Teen Misuse of OTC Cough Medicine Remains at Historic Lows

NIDA’s annual Monitoring the Future survey shows abuse rates at 2.8%
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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — The 2019 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 number of teens using over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to get high decreased slightly, coming in at under 3 percent. When first reported in 2006, the number of teens abusing OTC cough medicines was nearly twice that amount but has declined significantly since then.

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.

“CHPA is encouraged to see that teen DXM abuse rates remain low,” said CHPA President and CEO Scott Melville. “For more than a decade, CHPA has pushed forward in an aggressive effort aimed at decreasing teen DXM abuse rates. In 2008, our member companies took a major step in preventing abuse by voluntarily placing an icon on the packaging of OTC DXM products, encouraging parents to learn more about teen medicine abuse by visiting StopMedicineAbuse.org. Since then, we’ve built meaningful collaborations with key stakeholders to educate parents and teens. We’ve also worked with state lawmakers across the country to address the issue of teen DXM abuse with age-restriction laws. Today, 20 states have such laws in place, helping to prevent potential teen DXM abuse, while ensuring continued access for the millions of families who use these medicines responsibly.”

CHPA also collaborates with the Center on Addiction/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 see once again that there has been no increase in high school students’ misuse of over-the-counter cough and cold medications,” said Marcia Lee Taylor, EVP, External and Government Relations for Center on Addiction and Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “The fact that we have been able to sustain the decreases in this behavior speaks to the importance of the ongoing prevention effort conducted by CHPA and the Partnership for more than a decade.”

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

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), founded in 1881, is the national trade association representing the leading manufacturers and marketers of consumer healthcare products, including over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, dietary supplements, and consumer medical devices. CHPA is committed to empowering self-care by ensuring that Americans have access to products they can count on to be reliable, affordable, and convenient, while also delivering new and better ways to get and stay healthy. Visit www.chpa.org.