Choosing OTC Drugs Over Others

OTC drugs have a lot of pluses in the minds of some abusers, leading them to decide on OTC drugs as their drug of choice. The biggest draw is that OTC drugs are not illegal. Users are able to simply walk or drive to the store, pick up a pack of cough medicine, and take it home. It's much easier and safer to legally buy a drug in a supermarket than to clandestinely buy an illegal drug through a drug dealer.

Users, especially teenagers, also take OTC drugs because they are cheap. These users can get high for a few dollars, unlike the hundreds of dollars required to buy a steady supply of similar illegal drugs. DXM has been compared to ecstasy, ketamine, and PCP, producing the same hallucinogenic effects that these drugs are famed for, but for a lot less money. If users can experience ultimately the same thing with DXM as with illegal drugs, they predictably choose the drug that costs the least. This helps to explain why teenagers are the age group most likely to abuse OTC drugs. Without full-time jobs, teenagers don't have a lot of money to spend on recreational drug use, so they turn to the cheapest alternatives.

Because OTC drugs are not illegal, at least not yet, teenagers view them less seriously than their more famous counterparts. They see commercials for them every day, and have probably already taken them to relieve pain or cold symptoms. Taking the extra step and ingesting larger amounts of those same drugs doesn't seem like such a big deal. The pill or syrup forms of OTC drugs are also more familiar to teenagers and, in safe amounts, are condoned by their parents. Additionally, while some people might be squeamish of injecting a drug, using a syringe, or snorting a powder, taking a pill or swallowing syrup seems safe and easy.

The relative novelty of OTC drug abuse and the more widespread abuse of other, illegal drugs means that the

A Parent's Guide to Preventing Teen Cough Medicine Abuse, published by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, suggests these steps for parents who want to communicate with teens about OTC drugs:

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