Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications

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Teens and Pill Addiction

Many teenagers who have become dependent on a prescription drug were prescribed that medication by either their pain management doctor or family physician. Teens who are injured in sports-related events or need surgery can become addicted to the “high” they get from these pain meds. Pain meds and OTC pills are found in most households across the country. Kids who are interested in trying drugs for the first time may try medications found in the home to get that “first high”. There has been an up-rise in addiction rates by the number of teens and adolescents seeking treatment for their addiction to their prescription drugs or pain management drugs.

Over-the-counter medicines can be just as addictive as prescription or illegal street drugs. The risk of accidental overdose is high and the long-term damage done to the brain and body can be life-changing and life-threatening. Many people are under the impression that OTC medications are not as dangerous as hard drugs, but this is not the case. OTC and prescription pain pill addiction both need to be treated with detox and rehab.

Addiction No More’s certified chemical dependency counselors are here to help with addiction to drugs, alcohol, and other addictive behaviors. You can speak with one of our Counselors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Adolescent OTC Medication Abuse and Addiction

Dextromethorphan (DXM) is one of the most popular and easy-to-acquire OTC choices among teens. This ingredient is found in more than 140 cough and cold medications that you can buy over the counter without a prescription. DXM can cause psychoactive effects that can make you feel very high when taken in large doses. DXM can also cause distorted vision, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, slurred speech, loss of motor skills, hallucinations, and seizures. Below is a list of some of the OTC cough medicines that have Dextromethorphan in them. If you have any of these medicines at home, you should put them in a safe place where your child cannot accidentally (or purposefully) take too much.

  • Babee Cof Syrup
  • Benylin Pediatric Formula
  • Childrens Pedia Care
  • Creomulsion
  • Creo-Terpin
  • Delsym
  • Dexalone
  • ElixSure Cough Childrens
  • Father Johns Medicine
  • Miltuss
  • Nycoff
  • Pediacare
  • Pediacare Long-Acting Cough
  • Robafen Cough
  • Robitussin
  • Silphen DM
  • Simply Cough
  • St Joseph
  • Vicks 44 Cough Relief

What Happens if you take too much DXM?

There has been a number of teens who have died from overdosing on DXM and at least one murder linked to the drug.

  • Breathing problems
  • Blacking out
  • Muscle twitching
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Blurred vision
  • Muscle twitching
  • Brain damage

DXM isn’t the only OTC drug being abused by young adults and teens. Laxatives and diet pills are also abused by adolescents and adults as well. The ingredients in these popular diet pills can cause side effects such as kidney problems, dehydration, high blood pressure, and even heart failure, especially when taken in large doses or over a long time. Teens who have eating disorders are more likely to abuse diet pills and laxatives. Motion sickness pills, such as Dramamine, is another OTC drug that is abused by teenagers. This medication can cause hallucinations when taken in excessive amounts. Sleep aids like Unison, ZzzQuil, Excedrin PM, Tylenol PM, and Sominex can disrupt regular sleep patterns when abused. They can cause extreme drowsiness, which can lead to narcolepsy.

drug rehab for my son

Prescription Drugs and Teenagers

Many teens start to use prescription drugs not only because of how easy they are to acquire (ie. from your own medicine cabinet, from a friend’s home, bought from friends at school) but because they think the drugs will help them have more fun, lose weight, fit in, and even stay awake to be able to study longer. Prescription drugs are also sometimes sold on the street like other illegal drugs. In 2017, 1 in 7 teens said they have taken a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription.

Most commonly abused prescription drugs:

Pain pills
Sleeping pills

Know the signs of OTC and pill abuse

You may notice subtle changes in your teen as they become addicted. Their behavior will change either abruptly or gradually depending on many things. Most often, they will become compulsive in taking more of the drugs to prevent withdrawal symptoms from setting in.

  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty Urinating
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety/nervousness
  • Mood changes
  • Shakiness/unsteady walk
  • Slowed breathing

Withdrawal from prescription medications can include the following:

  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Convulsions
  • Hot/Cold sweets
  • Seizures
  • Cardiac arrest

If you suspect your child is experiencing withdrawal symptoms from over-the-counter or prescription medications please give us a call or seek medical help immediately. Do not force your teen to stop taking medications as there can be serious health concerns and even death when withdrawing from certain medications. Call to speak with a certified chemical dependency counselor now.


If you need help for an adult in your life Addiction No More is a locator service for treatment programs for adults.

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