Parents' worries never stop. But sometimes, Mom and Dad need reminders that seemingly innocuous items -- cough syrup bottles, cans of computer keyboard cleaners, even incense made from herbs and spices, can provide clues that their children are toying with danger.
Increasingly, curious teens in search of inexpensive highs -- especially good kids who aren't drinking or using illegal drugs -- experiment with things they're sure will fall below their parents' radar screens. Some of the most potent drugs of abuse are stored inside the bathroom cabinet or below the kitchen sink, stashed on a shelf in the garage or basement, or tucked into a desk drawer.
Nadine J. Kaslow, chief psychologist at Emory University in Atlanta, warns parents to be on the lookout for changes in their child's functioning, such as a sudden drop in grades, sudden loss of friends, sleeping much more -- or much less, losing their appetite, becoming unusually secretive, or lying.
She also warns about kids who withdraw from family life and become "disconnected from people in a real way." Some may spend increasing hours texting or on the Internet, where Google searches for phrases like "cheap way to get high" can steer them to how-to sites written by other teens -- a danger cited by other experts as well.
"Most parents are concerned about pornography and online pedophiles. What they don't realize is the preponderance of pro-drug use information on the Internet," warns Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Partnership for a Drug-Free America in New York. "It's not on their radar screen, because no one did it when they were growing up."
The following pages showcase a handful of ways your child could be endangering his or her life, along with some tips on what to look for and what you can do.
Teenagers seeking a quick buzz need go no further than the family medicine cabinet. A common item in many households is over-the-counter liquid cough and cold medicine containing dextromethorphan (DXM), the most widely used cough suppressant.
Safe at recommended doses, DXM can prove deadly when chugged by the bottleful in a practice teens call "Robo tripping" -- a nod to Robitussin, one of the most popular cough syrups with DXM. Not only can it create blurred vision, sweating, fever, high blood pressure, elevated heart rate and elevated body temperature, it also can produce hallucinations, loss of motor control, coma and even death. DXM-containing cough preparations, which include pills, tablets, capsules and powders, constitute a hazard parents can easily overlook, says Pasierb.
Other product names include "robo," "tussin," "dex," "rojo," and "red velvet." DXM-containing Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold, often called triple-C because of the lettering on the red pills, contains some of the highest DXM doses of OTC products.
Things You Can Do
Parents may learn their children have been abusing this medicine by finding it in inappropriate amounts in their child's personal space, particularly if the child has obtained it on his or her own. If abuse is suspected:
Throw away the unused portion of the product after you've recovered.
If you don't want to throw it away, remove it from the medicine cabinet or storage area beneath the bathroom sink, and secure it, out of your child's reach.