(Mobile, Ala.) - (Note: The names for both mother and daughter have been changed in this story to protect the teenager's identity. Both live in Mobile.)
The day began like most school days for Carol and Sandra. For Sandra, a quick breakfast, grab the backpack, and out the door to school.
Carol then left for work. But by the time that seemingly ordinary day was over, Sandra would be wheeled into ICU, unconscious.
"I was so scared," said Sandra. "I didn't have any idea what was going on"
Carol would be wondering if her daughter would survive the night.
"I thought I'd lost her," she said, quietly.
The first sign of trouble came shortly after Sandra arrived at school.
"It hit me about first block, and I had already been really tired," Sandra recalled. "And I went to sleep in first block. And they had trouble waking me up. And when I finally came to, I was really blank. I didn't know what was really going on."
Sandra was rushed to the hospital.
"She had zero recognition of who we were when we walked into the hospital room," said her mother. "And I could tell it scared her even more when we were sitting there crying and upset. And she had no clue who we were. She kept asking, where am I at? Why am I here? She had no clue."
But Sandra wasn't the only one asking questions. So were school officials. And Carol had questions, too. And the answers would not be anything Carol wanted, nor expected to hear.
"They were searching her backpack," said Carol, "and found it in her backpack and that's how they knew she had probably taken something."
Drugs. But not illegal drugs. Not even prescription drugs.
Before Sandra went to school that day, she took an OTC medication - OTC stands for something sold Over the Counter. In this case, Mucinex DM. Its makers say a couple of them can provide quick relief from congestion.
But for Sandra?
"Well, people who are trying to get high off of them usually take ten to fifteen, usually," she said, meekly.
Sandra had taken an entire package of Mucinex DM. Not a suicide attempt, she insists. But to get high. She'd done it before. And if you think that's unusual, you might want to keep a closer watch on your teenager.
"You just walk into a grocery story or drug store and buy them without a prescription," said Gail Hooper. of Mobile's Drug Education Council.
It's that easy access, said Hooper, that can give young people, like Sandra, a false sense of safety.
And, generally, OTC drugs are safe. But when you exceed the recommended dosage, the result is more often anything but pleasant.
"It could be anything from things like dizziness," said Hooper, "anxiety, nausea, vomiting, even all the way up to things like respiratory failure and coma." Death? "Yes, death in some cases."
Sandra says getting these strong over the county drugs is easy. After all, they're right there on the store shelves. She's purchased them before.
And she's about to purchase them again.
At our request, and with her mother's permission, Sandra went inside a local dollar store and purchased another package of Mucinex.
Remember, there is no law regarding age when it comes to selling and purchasing most over the counter drugs.
It's as easy as buying a pack of gum.
"It's just so easy and readily available to them," said Carol. "They have taken some of them and put them behind the counters. But there are still so many you can just walk up and buy. Even as a teenager you can walk in and by it. There are just no age limits to it."
The experience has cost Sandra some of her personal freedom. Her mother now monitors her phone calls, texts and Facebook usage. There are therapy sessions and the possibility of the occasional drug test.
But Sandra says, that's ok. She's alive, and, she says, she's loved.
"I mean, I am embarrassed," she admitted. "But I feel like it's worth talking about, because I don't want some other family to have to go through this. I don't feel it's worth it."
You may be surprised to hear an OTC drug like Mucinex has the ability to be abused.
But in Sandra's case it was Mucinex "DM".
That "DM" involves an ingredient used in many cough syrups that are being abused right now.
Parents need to learn as much as you can about monitoring OTC's in your home.
For really good information about OTC abuse, visit www.theantidrug.com