Prescription & OTC Drugs


Prescription Drug & Over-The-Counter (OTC) Product Abuse

When we think of drug abuse issues, we typically think of illicit (illegal) drugs. But the truth is, licit drugs (legal for prescription) are a huge abuse issue. Whether people start abusing them deliberately or accidentally become addicted while taking them legitimately for medical purposes, the results are the same…..devastating. Rush Limbaugh’s recent fall from the pedestal is proof of that!

Meanwhile, many people also abuse over-the-counter (OTC) products for the same abuse reasons, to get high, zone out, hallucinate, etc. And often this abuse involves the young since these products are so readily available either in the home medicine cabinet, via shoplifting or simply affordable via purchase.

As a result, cases of prescription drug abuse are rising, and so are the number of people who are seeking help at San Diego detox centers and similar facilities across the United States.

Project GHB is focused primarily on the drug gamma hydroxy butyrate, but we are concerned about all drug abuse. Once addicted to GHB, the road to health is a tough one. Detox from GHB should be done as a medical detox (not home along, going “cold turkey”) and involves medications that themselves are highly addictive. But prescription medication is an important part of treatment for many things, from detox to pain, whether chronic pain from ongoing problems or brief pain from injury or surgery. Medications for detoxing from GHB or other drugs or for aftercare of surgery or injury must be viewed as a temporary aid to recovery and have to be handled carefully or one addiction will simply be traded for another.

This page is dedicated to addressing prescription drug and OTC product abuse.

What do you know about drug abuse amongst teens today? Do you know what group of kids is using drugs? Do you know where they are obtaining the drugs they are abusing?
Today drug abuse is prevalent in every socioeconomic background.
Did you know that teens don’t even need to seek out a drug dealer? The drugs that teens are abusing today are available right in your own home. The kids don’t even have to leave their homes or make an illegal purchase from a scary drug dealer.
According to a recent study by the Partnership for a Drug Free America, today’s teens are more likely to abuse prescription and over the counter medications than many illegal drugs, and teens think that abusing these medications to get high is ‘safer’ than abusing illegal drugs.
This mindset couldn’t be more frightening! Prescription and over the counter medications are safe when taken as prescribed, but when abused, can be just as dangerous as illegal drugs, or lethal.
I learned about this new trend of drug abuse very tragically three summers ago. It was a summer morning in July 2003. I went to wake my oldest son, Carl. Carl was 18 years old. He had just graduated from high school and was working at a local pizza restaurant. Carl was a loving young man. He was getting ready to leave in two days for Memphis College of Art where he hoped to study in the fall. He had a gift for music and art.
I am a loving and involved mother. I am a registered nurse who thought that I knew what drugs teens abused and what signs to look for. But the morning of July 16, 2003, when I opened my son’s bedroom door, I discovered that he had died in his sleep.
It took me weeks to discover what happened to Carl. I had to wait for his autopsy report, talk to his friends, and discover journal entries on his computer, before I realized what had been the cause of his death. It was then that I realized that the drug culture had changed, but I hadn’t kept up. I was looking for the wrong drugs of abuse. I didn’t realize that more kids from more backgrounds were experimenting with drugs, and that the drugs they were using were not necessarily the illegal street drugs.
The summer before Carl’s death, I had found two empty bottles of cough syrup in our basement after a sleepover with friends. I was confused. I went to the internet to search for answers before I confronted Carl, but I found nothing to concern me during my search. When I spoke with Carl about the empty bottles, he explained that they had heard you could get “high” off of cough syrup, so they tried it, but nothing happened. He reassured me, as he had in the past, that he wasn’t using “hard” drugs and not to worry.
I, the ever watchful mom, continued to look for signs of drug use, but found no further evidence to suggest that Carl was still using cough syrup to get high. I did occasionally catch him with marijuana, but I thought that we were handling that issue appropriately.
The morning I discovered Carl, I also found an empty bottle of cough syrup in the backseat of his car. During my search for answers, I found two more empty bottles of cough syrup; one in a dresser drawer and one in a lawn waste bag.
Through websites on the internet, Carl and his friends researched and educated themselves on how to use these products to get high. Carl wrote in his computer journal entries how he enjoyed the hallucinations that you could achieve upon intentionally overdosing on cough and cold products.
I wouldn’t find out until the morning of Carl’s death what he and many others knew about his abuse of cough medicine. The danger that I so desperately tried to keep out of our house had found a way to secretly sneak in, but there were no needles, no powders, no smells, and no large amounts of money being spent- none of the “typical” signs of drug abuse.
Carl’s accidental overdose was a result of a lethal mix of drugs; a prescription narcotic and dextromethrophan, or DXM, which is the active ingredient in cough and cold products.
The kids do not realize that over the counter drugs which are legal to purchase or medications in your medicine cabinet at home can be harmful or lethal when taken at doses higher than recommended or when mixed with other substances.
According to the Partnership’s study, 1 in 11 teens are abusing over the counter medications and 1 in 5 teens are abusing prescription drugs to get high.
Know what drugs are available in your home; both over the counter and prescription. Know what they are, how much you have, and how they are being used.
Educate yourself. Learn what drugs your kids are being exposed to. Find out what websites about drug abuse is available to your kids on the internet. Monitor your child’s internet use.
Communicate standards about drug use to your kids. Understand that every child is vulnerable. The face of drug abuse has changed. Kids today are growing up with more pressures and uncertainties.
Know your child’s friends. Meet their parents. Network with other parents and get a list of addresses, phone numbers, emails so that you can keep in touch; communicate.
Show up early to pick up your child so you can observe their behavior.
Check to see that your child is where they say that they are going.
Have something for your teen to do after school between 3 and 6p. This is a vulnerable time for kids to get into trouble with drugs.
Look for empty bottles or blister packs of cough and cold products in backpacks, cars, dresser drawers, and trash cans. Be aware if your child is taking medication when they appear physically well. Be aware of missing medication from a prescription bottle. Keep narcotics in a locked cabinet.
Abuse of over the counter and prescription drugs is rapidly increasing. As parents we need to stay aware of the changing trends of drug abuse so that we can better guide our children.

Generation Rx: National Study Confirms Abuse of Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drugs 'Normalized' Among Teens

Tuesday May 16, 10:30 am ET

- Today's Teens More Likely to Abuse Rx and OTC Medications Than Many Illegal Drugs -

- Teens Think Abusing Medicines to Get High is 'Safer' Than Using Illegal Drugs -

- First-Ever National Education Campaign Targeting Rx and OTC Abuse Launches Today -

WASHINGTON, May 16 /PRNewswire/ -- The intentional abuse of prescription (Rx) and over-the-counter (OTC) medications to get high is now an entrenched behavior among today's teen population, according to a national study released by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America®.
The Partnership's 18th annual study of teen drug use and attitudes confirms that Generation Rx has arrived as an alarming number of today's teenagers are more likely to have abused Rx and OTC medications than a variety of illegal drugs like Ecstasy, cocaine, crack and meth. Nearly one in five teens (19 percent or 4.5 million) report abusing prescription medications to get high; and one in 10 (10 percent or 2.4 million) report abusing cough medicine to get high.
"This study removes any doubt that intentional abuse of medications among teens is a real issue threatening the health and well being of American families," said Steve Pasierb, president & CEO of the Partnership. "We have a situation where a widespread and dangerous teen behavior has become normalized and has found its way into our homes. These findings should serve as a wake-up call to parents that their teen is facing a drug landscape that did not exist when they were teens. The abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs has taken root among America's teens and the behavior is not registering with parents. Unless we all take action, it is a problem that will only get worse."
Released today in Washington, D.C., the 2005 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) surveyed more than 7,300 teenagers in grades 7-12 (margin of error: +/-1.5 percent). Top-line findings from this nationally projectable tracking study show the culture of "pharming" -- abusing a host of medicines and chemical products intentionally to get high -- has established itself among America's teen population:
* Nearly one in five (19 percent or 4.5 million) teens has tried
prescription medication (pain relievers such as Vicodin and OxyContin;
stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall) to get high;

* One in 10 (10 percent or 2.4 million) teens report abusing cough
medicine to get high; and

* Abuse of Rx and OTC medications is on par or higher than the abuse of
illegal drugs such as Ecstasy (8 percent), cocaine/crack (10 percent),
methamphetamine (8 percent) and heroin (5 percent).
"There is a world of difference between good medicine and bad behavior," said Dr. Michael Maves, executive vice president & CEO of the American Medical Association and Partnership board member. "When these medicines are abused -- when they are used for anything other than their intended and approved purpose -- they can be every bit as dangerous as illegal street drugs."
Teens Think Intentionally Abusing Medicines to Get High is 'Safer' Than Using Illegal Drugs
According to the data, an alarming number of teens have a false sense of security about the safety of abusing Rx and OTC medications:
* Two in five teens (40 percent or 9.4 million) agree that Rx medicines,
even if they are not prescribed by a doctor, are "much safer" to use
than illegal drugs;

* Nearly one-third of teens (31 percent or 7.3 million) believe there's
"nothing wrong" with using Rx medicines without a prescription "once in
a while;"

* Nearly three out of 10 teens (29 percent or 6.8 million) believe
prescription pain relievers -- even if not prescribed by a doctor --
are not addictive; and

* More than half of teens (55 percent or 13 million) don't strongly agree
that using cough medicines to get high is risky.
The study also found teens believe a key driver for abusing prescription pain relievers is their widespread availability and easy access. According to the data, more than three in five teens say Rx pain relievers are easy to get from parents' medicine cabinets; half of teens say they're easy to get through other people's prescriptions; and more than half of teens say pain relievers are "available everywhere;" 43 percent of teens believe pain relievers are cheap and 35 percent believe they are safer to use than illegal drugs.
"What we have here is a case of misinformation and poor attitudes -- teens seeing few health risks associated with intentional abuse -- teamed with easy access at home and via the Internet. Together it's a potentially lethal combination," said Pasierb.
Parents Completely Unaware of Teens' Intentional Abuse of Medications
Parents are crucial in helping prevent this behavior, but are largely unaware and feel ill-equipped to respond. Parents must educate themselves and get through to their kids:
* Kids who learn a lot about the risks of drugs at home are up to 50
percent less likely to use drugs;

* Nine out of 10 parents of teens (92 percent or 22 million) say they
have talked to their teen about the dangers of drugs, yet fewer than
one-third of teens (31 percent or 7.4 million) say they "learn a lot
about the risks of drugs" from their parents.

* While three out of five parents report discussing drugs like marijuana
"a lot" with their children, only a third of parents report discussing
the risks of using prescription medicines or non-prescription cold or
cough medicine to get high.
"Today's cohort of parents is the most drug-experienced in history, but they do not understand this new drug abuse behavior among their teens," said Roy Bostock, chairman of the Partnership. "They are looking for the classic signs of illegal drug abuse and are missing this trend. Parents need to be aware that the drugs their teens abuse today, including medicines, are not the drugs from decades past. Only through education and parental involvement can this trend be reversed."
Partnership Launches First National Rx and OTC Medicine Abuse Education Campaign
The Partnership's annual tracking study -- the largest, ongoing analysis of drug-related attitudes in the country -- began measuring teen abuse of select medications in 2003. With three years of data in hand and last year's data heralding the emergence of this new category of substance abuse, the Partnership recognized this shift in teen drug abuse behavior as one of the most significant in recent history and immediately began developing a necessary prevention and education campaign directed at parents.
Launching today, the campaign is a comprehensive, multi-year prevention communications effort targeting the abuse of Rx and OTC medications. The Partnership created this effort with support from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association and its member companies. The campaign speaks directly to parents by alerting them that their own homes are easily accessible sources for teens to obtain and abuse these medications. The campaign is comprised of hard-hitting television, newspaper, magazine and radio messages, a multifaceted interactive online component, and is supplemented by informational brochures to help parents get the conversation started with their teen. A multi-faceted public relations effort will provide additional media support for the campaign.
The campaign also features an innovative online component consisting of unique and engaging Web sites focused on the dangers of abusing cough medicine/dextromethorphan (dextromethorphan, or DXM, is the active ingredient in cough medicine). The Partnership's Web site features comprehensive online content on the abuse of prescription drugs. Original online content created specifically for parents and teens on the abuse of cough medicine can be found at:
* For parents -

* For teens -
"The message of this campaign can be summed up in three words," Pasierb said. "Educate, communicate and safeguard. Educate yourself about the medications kids are abusing. Communicate with your kids and dispel the notion -- for yourself as well as for your kids -- that these medicines can be safely abused. And safeguard your medications by learning which ones can be abused, limit access to them and keep track of the quantities you have in your home -- and make sure your friends do the same."
All advertising for the campaign was created pro bono by advertising agencies Grey, DDB Chicago, Lumina Films and Dieste Harmel & Partners (Spanish-language), along with a number of production companies that donated their time and effort. All actors appear in campaign ads pro bono through the generosity of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The Rx and OTC education effort will be a priority campaign for the Partnership, which will work directly with national and local media to gain significant placements for campaign messages.
Steady Decline in Teen Drug Use, With Marked Areas of Concern
The 2005 PATS study confirms that overall substance abuse is steadily declining among teens. The data show noteworthy decreases in teens' use of tobacco, and steady declines in the number of teens using alcohol. Anti-marijuana attitudes have continued to strengthen since 1998 with 37 percent of teens reporting experimentation with the drug, compared to 42 percent in 1998. Ecstasy use also continues to decline with lifetime trials at 8 percent compared to 12 percent in 2001. Use of cocaine or crack -- either lifetime trial, past year and past month -- remain stable at 8 percent.
However, the PATS data has identified inhalants and methamphetamine abuse as two areas that are cause for concern and careful monitoring:
* Inhalants (inhaled fumes of household products) -- Teen trial of
inhalants has increased over the past three years to an alarming 20
percent and inhalants are currently the second most abused substances
behind marijuana (37 percent). While all measures of teen inhalant
abuse have not reached the record highs of 1998, falling perceptions of
risk indicate that additional increases in use are likely to follow.

* Methamphetamine or meth (stimulant) -- Teen perception of the risks
associated with both trying or using meth regularly have steadily
increased over the last three years and this year's data show usage
stabilized at 8 percent at the national level. While teen use of meth
is relatively low, only 54 percent of teens see great risk in trying
meth once or twice.
"Teens' low perception of risk in abusing a drug can lead to abuse," said Pasierb. "History would tell us that we need to stay out in front of meth and inhalants before teen use of these drugs increases."
For more information about this study and the campaign, visit .
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America® is a private, non-profit coalition of professionals from the communications industry. Best known for its national, drug-education advertising campaign, the Partnership's mission is to reduce illegal drug use in America. The Partnership's State/City Alliance Program supports the Partnership's mission at the local level. The Partnership receives major funding from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and financial support from more than 200 private sector corporations. The Partnership accepts no money from alcohol or tobacco manufacturers. All actors in the Partnership's ads appear pro bono through the generosity of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Source: Partnership for a Drug-Free America

Prescription Drug Issues

Coming soon…………….Benzo abuse (family that includes Valium and other commonly prescribed related drugs), OxyContin, oxycodone, Nubain, methadone (causing a growing number of deaths), etc.

OTC Product Issues

Glue-sniffing and gasoline-sniffing are perhaps the most commonly recognized OTC abuse items for the older generation, but today’s list is long and sad. Even “white-out” products became common abuse issues until most products were reformulated to reduce the effects. As abuse trends develop, products are reformulated or more stringently controlled.

Ephedrine products (aka ma huang or efedra) and pseudoephedrine products are now a huge issue and are often now limited in how many can be purchased or are held behind the counter and issued in limited quantities. This is because ephedrine and pseudoephedrine can be converted into methamphetamine, an illicit drug of rapidly growing concern nationwide. And, there are growing concerns about the safety of taking ephedrine products for weight loss and to stay awake, etc., due to deaths in recent years related to ephedrine products, including the death of a 23-year-old baseball player in 2003.

Common OTC product abuse involves nitrous oxide, aka NOZ, (often inhaled and abused at raves, in clubs and other parties for a brief and potentially dangerous high); Wizard Air Freshener and similar products (for the propellants, different from nitrous oxide but for similar reasons, a brief and potentially dangerous high); dextromethorphan, aka DXM (cough suppressant consumed in huge quantities to mimic the high of other illicit drugs), etc.