National Survey Shows Teen Abuse of OTC Cough Medicine Remains at All-Time Low

Washington, D.C. (December 13, 2016) — The results of the 2016 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey released today shows the percentage of teens using 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 results of this year’s Monitoring the Future survey demonstrate that prevention through education works,” Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) President and CEO Scott Melville said. “There is no silver bullet to preventing DXM abuse, but abuse rates are down. This tells us that our approach of collaborating with parents, community leaders, and elected officials to reach teens directly is working.”

CHPA works to reduce teen DXM abuse by following three strategies: increase parent engagement, heighten teen perception of risk and social disapproval, and limit teen access to DXM.

In 2009, 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

Additionally, CHPA collaborates with The 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. Teens are directed to visit to learn more.

 “We’re very encouraged to see teen misuse of over-the-counter cough and cold medications remaining at extremely low levels,” said Sean Clarkin, executive vice president, research and external relations, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “Prevention efforts enlisting parents as well as retailers, and reaching teens with engaging and effective messaging, appear to be having an impact.”

To help restrict teen access to DXM, CHPA supported the passage of state laws prohibiting the sale of medicines containing DXM to those under 18.  Currently 12 states, Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, 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 (S. 2994, 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 homes.


The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) is the 135-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. Visit for more information.