Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Parent, Teacher, and School Factors Associated with Over-the-Counter Drug Use among Multiracial Youth

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Parent, Teacher, and School Factors Associated with Over-the-Counter Drug Use among Multiracial Youth

Article excerpt

Background: Over-the-counter (OTC) drug use is an increasing health issue among adolescents. Purpose: This study investigated OTC drug use among 7th through 12th grade multiracial students in one metropolitan area. Methods: A total of 2134 students completed the PRIDE Questionnaire, which examines alcohol and other drug use. Results: A total of 8.3% of multiracial students reported using OTC drugs in their lifetime. Students involved in prosocial activities and those reporting positive parent factors were significantly less likely than their counterparts to use OTC drugs. Teacher and school factors were associated with reduced odds of use for males and high school students. Conversely, engaging in risky behaviors and having friends who used alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana significantly increased the odds for OTC drug use among males, females, junior high, and high school students. Discussion: Several risk and protective factors for OTC use were identified and, as such, should be addressed in prevention programming. Translation to Health Education Practice: Health education professionals should implement OTC drug use initiatives for multiracial youth that aim to reduce risk factors and increase protective factors against use. In addition, parents should be incorporated into prevention efforts because parent factors were important in reducing drug use among youth.


Rates of use and abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are rising among youth. (1) Research indicates that approximately 5% of adolescents reported using OTC medicines nonmedically, which is defined as failure to use OTC drugs as directed. Approximately 1 million youth used OTC cough and cold medication in the previous year for the purpose of getting high. (2) Among all OTC drug users, NyQuil, Coricidin, and Robitussin have been identified as the most commonly abused medications by adolescents.

Use of OTC drugs among adolescents differs based on several variables including sex, race, and ethnicity. (1) Concerning OTC medications, females ages 12 to 17 are more likely than their male counterparts to report using, whereas males ages 18 to 25 are more likely than their female peers to use OTC drugs. (1) White and Hispanic youth are more likely than African American youth to report lifetime and recent use of OTC medications. Specific statistics on multiracial youth are lacking.

Consequences of nonmedical use of OTC drugs are extensive. Research has documented increases in calls to poison control centers due to OTC drug use. (3) The Drug Abuse Warning Network (4) also reported approximately 12 500 emergency room visits due to OTC drugs, particularly those containing dextromethorphan. For youth ages 12 to 20, rates of emergency room visits for OTC drugs were greater than any other age group and accounted for approximately half (48%) of all visits for OTC drugs. Additional consequences of OTC drug use include seizures, cardiovascular disorders, paranoia, and psychosis. (5)

Evidence from national data suggests that multiracial youth report lower rates of substance use than white youth; however, overall rates of substance use are higher than those of African American youth. (1) Additional research found significant differences in substance use and other risky behaviors between multiracial youth and peers identifying as a single race minority. (6,7) Similarly, Choi and colleagues (7) found that multiracial youth were significantly more likely than single race minorities to use drugs and alcohol to get high.

Risk and protective factors for substance abuse have been identified. Concerning risk factors, access to substances increases the likelihood of youth use. (8) Poor parental monitoring, having a parent who uses alcohol or other drugs, lack of parent-child connection, and use of authoritarian parenting are family-level risk factors for youth substance use. (9-11) At the peer and school level, having peers who use alcohol and other drugs and low levels of school connectedness are identified as risk factors. …

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