When I was younger someone I knew well developed an addiction to common medicine. It is her story to tell, but it gave me a heightened awareness of over the counter and prescription drug abuse. One of the fastest growing trends among teens is the abuse of over the counter drugs because they are easily accessible in supermarkets and drug stores. Many common OTC medicines contain dextromethorphan (DXM), which can create a “high” feeling and can be extremely dangerous in excessive amounts.
OTC drug abuse is a serious problem, just like alcohol or marijuana. In some respects it is even more difficult to conquer because it is easier for teens to access than other addictive items. Just ask Tammy Walsh, a mother of two boys and a high school math teacher with a real passion for educating teens and parents on issues that may not be on their radar – such as OTC cough medicine abuse. Here is Tammy’s story:
As the mother with a son in recovery, I have experienced first-hand the impact substance abuse has on families. And, unfortunately, my family is one of many in my community to be affected by substance abuse. After numerous drug-related tragedies took place in my community of Northport, N.Y., I felt compelled to use my role as a high school math teacher and mother to fight this problem. While my son’s addiction is his story to tell, it inspired me to take action in my community – to stand up, speak out, and get others talking too.
My experience as a teacher in the local high school allowed me to see the daily challenges and choices that teens are faced with from their peers, and allowed me to see that these issues can affect honor students, student athletes, or in my case, my very own son.
The good news is that parents have tremendous power to help keep their teens free from substance abuse, including medicine abuse, by simply talking to their teen. In 2011, I decided to start the Northport Community Book Club to help parents start the conversation with their teens about the risks of medicine abuse through reading and discussing books on addiction, prevention, and recovery. Given the interest from my community, I decided to share our efforts online to further involve more people in the conversation through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. In the same year, I also joined Stop Medicine Abuse’s Five Moms initiative, which works to prevent teen abuse of over-the-counter cough medicine. This role has provided me with the opportunity to reach even more parents — and on a national level.
Ultimately, I hope that through my work with the Five Moms initiative and my community activities, I can help parents prevent substance abuse in their families. I encourage parents to join me in the stand against medicine abuse by taking the Stop Medicine Abuse pledge. Furthermore, I recommend that parents start the conversation with their teen early and often, monitor their medicine cabinet, and partner with their local community coalitions and school boards to protect our children from risky behaviors, like medicine abuse.
For more information about the Five oms initiative, go to: http://www.FiveMoms.com.