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Parents Should Keep Teens From Abusing Cough Medicine

Armen Hareyan's picture

Studies show that parents who talk to their kids about the dangers of drug abuse have children who are half as likely to abuse drugs. Despite this effective way for parents to address substance abuse with their kids, a recent survey of parents shows that while 83 percent say they feel prepared to discuss cough medicine abuse with their teens, only 21 percent have done so.

One year ago this month, five mothers from across the country launched the Five Moms: Stopping Cough Medicine Abuse Campaign to try to bridge that communication gap. Since then, these five extraordinary women have reached more than 23 million parents through online channels including personal blogs, an online messaging system, and a "viral" video to make the issue of teens abusing cough medicine hit home.

Cough medicine abuse is an alarming trend among young people, who intentionally take 25-50 times the recommended dose to get a "high" from the active ingredient dextromethorphan. Data collected by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America show that one in 10, or 2.4 million young people, reports having abused dextromethorphan-containing medicines to get high.

"This Mother's Day, we're building on the success of the past year by encouraging our expansive Five Moms community to have a conversation with their teens about the dangers of cough medicine abuse," said Linda A. Suydam, president of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), the association representing the leading makers of over-the-counter cough medicines and the group responsible for creating the campaign. "The process to address cough medicine abuse is two fold. First, we had to raise awareness among parents that teens abusing cough medicine was a reality. Now, with our growing community of engaged parents, we are asking our Five Moms members to engage in an open communication with their teens to help prevent this type of substance abuse."

The Five Moms are offering several steps that moms (and dads) can take that will open the door to conversations with their teens about cough medicine abuse. Among their key tips, also found at FiveMoms.com:

-- Educate yourself

-- Safeguard medicines at home

-- Communicate with your teen

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-- Monitor internet usage

-- Recognize signs your teen may be abusing cough medicine

"Like so many parents out there, I can't help but think how different my family's life would be had we known that cough medicine abuse was happening and were armed with information on how to prevent it," said Five Mom Christy Crandell, whose son was arrested for armed robbery while high on cough medicine and marijuana. "I can only hope that other parents understand the importance of taking these steps to protect their teens from abusing cough medicine."

Since the campaign's launch last May, tens of thousands of parents across the country have become actively engaged online in the fight against cough medicine abuse:

-- More than 84,000 people have visited http://www.FiveMoms.com, a web site where parents can find information about cough medicine abuse, read blog entries from the Five Moms, and link to sites that have additional resources for fighting cough medicine abuse.

-- Site visitors have sent more than 127,000 "Tell-A-Friend" e-mails, alerting other parents to the information available on FiveMoms.com.

-- The Five Moms viral video, which provides a compelling and alarming look at cough medicine abuse, has been viewed by more than 13,000 people on YouTube, google video, and Yahoo! video.

"In just one year, we've made great strides towards educating parents about this problem," said Hilda Morales, one of the Five Moms. "But we can not and will not stop our efforts until every parent in America knows about cough medicine abuse and is equipped to address it in his or her own home."

The Five Moms Campaign is part of a long-term multi-media effort by CHPA to educate parents and teens about cough medicine abuse. CHPA has partnered with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America on public service announcements and bilingual educational materials, and the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America on a toolkit for community leaders. CHPA also has worked with D.A.R.E. America to incorporate information about cough medicine abuse into its school curricula and is in the beginning stages of a partnership with the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA).

"Our member companies have worked tirelessly to educate parents about the potential for abuse," said CHPA President Suydam. "The success of the Five Moms Campaign has taken this effort to an entirely new level."