Is Your Home Addiction Proof?

Prescription Drugs, OTC Medications, Inhalants, And Other Potentially Hazardous Substances

Locking the liquor cabinet is an important first step in preventing underage drinking, but parents need to be aware that young people may abuse many other substances that are commonly found around the house. Adolescents seeking a cheap and easy high may ingest prescription drugs, inhalants, mouthwash, perfumes, and even vanilla extract and other food flavorings, and these poor decisions can sometimes lead to dire consequences.

Over-The-Counter Drugs And Prescription Medications

Many teens mistakenly believe that abusing medications is not as risky as taking street drugs, but in reality, prescription drugs can be just as addictive and destructive as illegal drugs. The most frequently abused medications include prescription pain medications, stimulants (like Adderall, a common medication for ADHD), and central nervous system depressants (like Valium). Over-the-counter drugs (like cough medicine) can also have serious health consequences when taken in large doses to get high. Many young people who abuse prescription medications take them from family members. In fact, the 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey found that half of all high school seniors had easy access to opioid pain relievers.


Gasoline, paint thinner, nail polish remover, cleaning fluids, spray paint, whipped cream cans, and other aerosols are all examples of inhalants, chemical gases that may be inhaled with the intention of getting high. Sadly, because these chemicals are readily available in most families’ homes, inhalants are often the first drugs that young teens try. Eighth graders are more likely than older teens to abuse inhalants because they do not appreciate how dangerous they are.

Vanilla Extract, Mouthwash, And Perfume

Household products that contain ethanol are a common cause of poisoning in children and teens. Whether young people drink them accidentally, on a dare, out of curiosity, or with the intention to get high, ingesting these products can cause alcohol poisoning. Vanilla extract, for example, contains about 35 percent ethanol by volume, which is roughly the amount of alcohol by volume present in many distilled beverages, such as rum or brandy. Mouthwash may contain 22 percent alcohol by volume. Other food flavorings, including lemon extract and almond extract, also contain alcohol, and it is even possible to get high by snorting nutmeg.

Teens often learn about strange new ways to get high over the internet or social media, but they fail to understand the potential consequences of these activities. Snorting nutmeg, for instance, can cause hallucinations, vomiting, diarrhea, and heart problems.

Protect Your Children

Alcohol is still the substance that young people are most likely to abuse in the U.S., and many underage drinkers get their alcohol from their parents' homes or the homes of someone else they know. Take the first step toward preventing substance abuse among the young people in your life by not giving them alcohol and keeping close tabs on the alcohol in your house. But don't stop there. Take steps to secure prescription medications that could be abused, and teach your children about the dangers of experimenting with medications, inhalants, and other potentially toxic products in your home.