OTC Drug Abuse: Next Steps
Here's some guidance on what to do before you confront your son or daughter about over-the-counter drug abuse.
- Don’t react impulsively. Don’t storm into your teen's room and start yelling. If you take that approach, you may regret it. Your teen may become immediately defensive. Instead, take some time to think about what you want to say.
- Gather evidence. No, you don't need incontrovertible proof your child is abusing drugs; you don't need to set up an elaborate sting. But you may feel more confident if you can point to some evidence backing up your accusation. That evidence could be an empty bottle of cough medicine you find in your teen's room or in the medicine cabinet. But it might just include observations you've made that fit with OTC drug abuse, like odd behavior changes.
- Do some research. Learn the facts about teen drug abuse of cough and cold medicine. Know which drugs are being abused, and why they're dangerous. You need to prove that you know what you're talking about.
- Be prepared to have a discussion. Your job now is not just to pass judgment, mete out punishment, and leave the room. You need to talk to your teen. It may take some work – and a few tries – but you need to explain why you're so concerned about OTC drug abuse.
- Know what your policy is. Before you start the conversation, you need to have settled on a firm set of household rules concerning drug abuse. Spell them out clearly. You also need to know exactly what the punishment is for breaking them.
- Get support. You'll feel more confident if you have backup. Obviously, you and your spouse should be on the same page. But you might also find it helpful to talk over the situation with others -- friends, a therapist, or a clergy member -- both before and after confronting your teen.
- Choose the right time. Don't delve into this discussion abruptly, 10 minutes before the bus arrives, or when your teen is in the middle of playing a video game. Do it when you'll both have the time to hash it out. Certainly, don't try to engage if your teen actually seems high.
After you've talked, it’s easy to get a false sense of security, to assume that the issue is settled. But it's not. Even if your teen earnestly agrees to stop OTC medicine abuse, it's not over. The same reasons, the same pressures that led your teenager to start abusing drugs in the first place, are still there.
So instead, you need to check in regularly and have an ongoing dialogue. This isn't the end. Make this conversation the first of many.