Watch 12 News at 10 to find out how teens are getting access to and abusing over-the-counter medication.
Amy Massey almost died. Her heart was pumping too fast. She stopped breathing at one point. Doctors had to revive her.
“I was very close to death, I’m lucky to be here,” Massey said.
She would spend one week in the hospital, hooked up to tubes and monitors. A teenager at the time, it was a life-changing event. That change would require her to stop abusing over-the-counter medication.
“You become addicted to the feeling of euphoria and the rush,” said Massey.
Trying to be popular and fit in, Massey abused diet pills for more than a year. At times, she would crush the pills up and snort them for a quicker high.
“What people like to do is crush the pills so they get an instantaneous rise,” said Dr. Frank Lovecchio of Maricopa Integrated Health System.
Easy to access, teenagers are raiding their parents’ medicine cabinets to get high. Some of the popular pills or medicines include Benadryl, Mucinex D, Tylenol and Robitussin.
“I think this is really bad, we are talking about 10-, 12-, 15-, 17-year-old kids abusing substances,” said Stephanie Siete from Community Bridges.
According to Consumer Med Safety, one in 10 kids between 7th and 12th grade say they have abused over-the-counter medications.
“It is being offered at the schools, a lot of the medications get passed around at the schools,” Siete said.
The medications may seem somewhat harmless, but if abused, they can be dangerous and in some cases deadly.
“When you get these super high levels you can certainly die,” said Dr. Lovecchio.
Unlike cigarettes or alcohol, which are more closely monitored, underage kids are often able to purchase over-the-counter medicine.
12 News talked to a 16-year-old who purchased Robitussin at two different stores. In both cases, the person at the counter did not card the teenager, despite a warning on the box stating that the buyer should be 18 or older.
“I think the odds are, it is happening all over the place. The reality is, it is an over-the-counter medication, and it’s 18, but if a kid goes in and looks close to 18, I don’t think they are going to card,” said Arizona DEA special agent in charge Doug Coleman.
Amy Little-Hall is a parent and a drug prevention advocate.
“It happens fast, once you get on that train, down that slippery slope, it is hard to stop,” she said.
Abuse of over the counter medication can also lead to more addictive and dangerous drugs. Kids will often chase a more powerful drug to get high.
After abusing diet pills for about a year, Amy Massey said she started to snort cocaine. It’s a dangerous reality that is played out all over the country daily. It is also why experts are warning parents to keep a close eye on over-the-counter medications in your home.
It is also important to stay connected and communicate with your kids regularly. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction you can go to: http://www.azdhs.gov/ or https://communitybridgesaz.org/ for information or help.
The reality is, whether it’s illegal, prescription or over-the-counter medicine, there is no right way to abuse drugs.