Harmful Drugs in Your Medicine Cabinet
The number of teens abusing illegal drugs dropped 11 percent in the past two years, according to reports from the U.S. Department of Health, but the celebration may be premature. Many kids are getting high on legal medications -- from over-the-counter cough medicines containing DXM (dextromethoxpan) to painkillers such as Vicodin. (In another survey, 8 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds used prescription medicines for nonmedical use.) Scariest of all: "A parent's prescription is the most likely source," says M. David Lewis, MD, medical director of Visions Teen Treatment Program in Malibu, California. Dr. Lewis recommends that parents throw out outdated prescriptions and hide current ones, carefully monitoring the amounts. Symptoms to watch for in your teen: insomnia, weight loss, irritability, agitation, and mood swings. "Dumping an intensely psychoactive drug into a teenager's developing brain is like a chemistry experiment," says Dr. Lewis. "The damage can be devastating."
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, April 2004.
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