I was recently contacted by Misty Fetko, a registered nurse, mom of two, and the newest member of the Five Moms: Stopping Cough Medicine Abuse campaign. Her story really touched my heart, especially since I have two teenage boys. Here’s what she wrote:
“I’m reaching out to you because October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month, something that has particular meaning to my family and me. In 2003, I discovered my older son, Carl, unresponsive in his bedroom. He passed away that day from a lethal mix of drugs including Fentanyl, a prescription narcotic; marijuana; and dextromethorphan (DXM), the active ingredient in over-the-counter cough medicines. As an emergency room nurse, I know about substance abuse from first-hand experience, but even with all that knowledge I never knew that teens were abusing cough medicine to get high. I’ve joined the Five Moms campaign in an effort to ensure that parents have all the information about medicine abuse that I unfortunately did not have.”
Recent studies among middle and high school aged kids across the country show a disturbing form of substance abuse among teens: the intentional abuse of otherwise beneficial medications, both prescription (Rx) and over-the-counter (OTC), to get high.
According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, one in five teens reports having abused a prescription drug to get high. Where OTC medicines are concerned, data from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America indicate that one in 10 teens reports having abused OTC cough medicines to get high, and 28 percent know someone who has tried it.
The ingredient the teens are abusing in OTC cough medicines is dextromethorphan, or DXM. When used according to label directions, DXM is a safe and effective ingredient approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is found in well over 100 brand-name and store-brand over-the-counter cough medicines. When abused in extreme amounts, DXM can be dangerous.
StopMedicineAbuse.org was developed by the leading makers of OTC cough medicines to build awareness about this type of substance abuse behavior, provide tips to prevent it from happening, and encourage parents to safeguard their medicine cabinets. Substance abuse can touch any family: The key to keeping teens drug-free is education and talking about the dangers of abuse.
I’m hoping that Misty’s bravery in speaking out about her family’s tragedy will prevent a similar experience from happening to other parents. If you think that medicine abuse could never impact your family, just remember that Misty thought the same thing. Please visit www.StopMedicineAbuse.org to find important information and resources about medicine abuse and how to prevent it.