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Abuse of Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications Alarming Trend
The Cleveland County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition is working to raise awareness among parents and youth about the dangers of abusing prescription and overthe- counter medications.
Next to marijuana, the most common illegal drugs teens are abusing are prescription medications, with 1 in 5 teens having ever abused a prescription drug. This results in almost 2,500 teens abusing a prescription drug for the first time every day. Furthermore, the Drug Abuse Warning Network reports that an estimated 7,988 emergency department visits were associated with the non-medical use of cough medicine in 2009. That’s a 72% increase over four years according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). After evaluating the increasing problem of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) abuse in Cleveland County, the Cleveland County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (SAPC) is seeking to educate youth, parents, and professionals on the warning signs, codes names, and dangers of this new trend of drug abuse among teens.
One of the strategies the SAPC is using to raise awareness about the prevalence and dangers of prescription and OTC (particularly cough medication) drug abuse is the placement of 3’ x 6’ board cut-outs in various locations throughout Cleveland County. One of the hard to miss boards features the design of a cough medicine bottle with a straw in it, while the other eye-catching board features a grenade labeled “Tussin DM Cough Suppressant”. It is the hope of the SAPC that these boards will make parents aware of not only the potential abuse of these drugs by teens to get high, but also the dangers associated with abuse as well as the need to keep these drugs inaccessible in the home.
Because the liquor cabinet is not the only cabinet where kids are getting drugs today, parents should take the following precautions to help prevent their children from abusing prescription and OTC medications:
•Educate Yourself.
•Monitor and Safeguard Your Medicine—always know what prescription and OTC drugs are in the home and be able to recognize if some are missing. Keep prescription and OTC medications out of reach from children and out of sight or locked up from teenagers.
•Talk with your child—many teens report their parents have the biggest influence on their drug use decisions. Parents should denormalize drug use, discuss the dangers, provide clear guidelines, and express strong disapproval.
•Safely dispose of expired and unused medicine.
The SAPC also wants the community to be aware of the signs of prescription and OTC drug abuse. Following are some of the most common physical and social warning signs:
•Excessive sweating, urination, or thirst
•Nausea and vomiting
•Spastic shaking
•Drowsiness, dizziness, or insomnia
•Losing interest in personal appearance, extracurricular activities, or sports
•Changes in mood or personality including being more irritable or negative
•Borrowing money or having extra cash
•Changes in friends or hangout locations
•Decreased academic or athletic performance
•Empty prescription or cough medicine bottles
The risks and consequences of abusing prescription and OTC drugs are serious and can lead to death. Combining prescription or OTC medications with alcohol can also be a deadly concoction. Following are a few of the many possible consequences of abusing prescription and OTC medications:
•Increased blood pressure and heart rate
•Damage to the brain and other organs
•Accidental overdoses and/or poisonings
•Physical dependency/addiction
•Disrupted breathing
•Stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting
Similar to many of the illegal drugs abused today, prescription and OTC drug abuse has many code names that teens use to hide their abuse from parents and other concerned adults. Some of the most common code names for over-the-counter cough medication abuse and prescription drug abuse are below:
Cough Medicine Code Names:
Dex or DXM - Skittles
Robo-tripping - Syrup
Triple C’s or CCC - Purple Drank
Pharming Parties - Tussin
Prescription Medicine Code Names:
Captain Cody Uppers - Barbs
Vikes Vitamin R - Footballs
Hillbilly Heroin - Skippy Bars
Oxy 80’s or OC’s Downers - Demmies
Percs Candy - Tranks
The Cleveland County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition would like to remind the community that despite some teenagers’ casual attitude about misusing or abusing prescription and OTC drugs to get high, the consequences can be deadly. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs are meant to help save lives, not end them. SAPC encourages all parents, professionals, and caregivers to be aware of and discuss the dangers of prescription and OTC drug abuse with young people.
For more information on the SAPC’s initiative to reduce prescription and OTC drug among teenagers in our community, you may contact DeShay Duddy at 704-484- 5199 or deshay.duddy@clevelandcounty.com.

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