While the Food and Drug Administration is set to hold hearings later this month on the risks and abuse of over-the-counter cough medicines, a new poll found that law enforcement officials and teachers say marijuana and alcohol abuse are still the biggest threats facing teenagers.

A nationwide telephone survey of 200 police officers and 200 teachers was conducted recently by the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest to find out what substances posed the greatest risk to adolescents for potential abuse. Results of the poll showed that both groups ranked alcohol and marijuana as the leading substances that adversely affect teenagers.

However, the Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to hear arguments on Sept. 14 about the potential risks and abuse, especially among adolescents, of over- the-counter cough medicines. In the poll, prescription drugs, methamphetamines and cocaine were all ranked as greater risks than the abuse of cold and cough syrup.

Of the 200 police officers polled, 69 percent said marijuana had the greatest negative impact on teenagers, while 70 percent of teachers said that alcohol and beer was the number one substance that they saw as a problem. Abuse of cold and flu medicine was cited as risks by five and eight percent of police and teachers, respectively.

The FDA is debating whether to make products containing dextromethorphan (DXM) harder to obtain by restricting its access to pharmacists only or a doctor’s prescription. Michael Klein, director of the Controlled Substance Staff for the FDA, wrote in an August memorandum that requests for scientific and medical evaluation of DXM from the Drug Enforcement Administration prompted the upcoming meeting.

According to the document, the FDA previously convened in 1990 and 1992 to discuss DXM and its abuse potential, but found insufficient reported evidence of widespread abuse of the substance. Klein cited five DXM related deaths of teenagers in 2005 and an increased effort by various agencies to spread awareness of DXM abuse as potential reasons to classify the drug as a controlled substance.

Robert Goldberg, vice president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, said he disagrees with any plans to remove products containing DXM directly out of the hands of consumers.

“Americans expect to be able to buy cough medicines conveniently at the supermarket or their neighborhood corner store,” he said in a statement. “Overly restricting access to cough and cold products containing dextromethorphan will create more health problems than it will solve, especially during cold and flu seasons. We need to find common sense solutions and invest more resources in education.”

The FDA said it will not make any determinations about the status of DXM control until “input from the advisory committee process has been considered and all reviews have been finalized.”