Fill out this form and you will receive a response back from an Addiction Specialist who can answer all your questions. Or if you would like to speak with a Counselor right away, please call the toll-free number listed above.
Cold Medication Abuse
Over the past several years, drug counselors around the country have noticed a significant hike in the abuse of the cough suppressant dextromethorphan (DXM). There's a thriving subculture on the Internet that offers advice on which cough suppressants produce the best high and how to take them. Some even contain instructions on how to extract the DXM from the cough syrup. But because it's a legal drug, it's not tracked by any of the major groups that follow teen drug use. So it's difficult to gauge how just how widespread the problem is. And because it's been around for decades, some experts worry that the levels of abuse may be exaggerated by the media, only tipping off more kids to a new legal high. What little is known about the increasing levels of abuse of DXM has already prompted some adults to take action. Legislation has been introduced in many states that would restrict the sale of products with DXM to minors. Parent groups have called on pharmacies to keep some cold meds, including Robitussin and Coricidin behind the counter, and some local stores have complied. The trade group that represents the manufacturers of the over-the-counter drugs, the Consumer Health Care Products Association, has started an educational campaign, sending out thousands of brochures that warn parents and educators about the dangers of having too many cold medications stocked in the medicine cabinet. It's also working in conjunction with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, which is now conducting its first study to gauge the prevalence of cold medication abuse.
Dextromethorphan is a cough-suppressing ingredient in a variety of OTC cold and cough medications. Many of the brand named cold medications are among those that can be abused. A teenager looking to get high or experiment with drugs may turn to OTC cough and cold preparations that contain dextromethorphan because they are readily available at home or the local drug store. Dextromethorphan can also be purchased in a bulk powder form on the Internet. Depending on the dose, the cold medications containing DXM's effects vary. Misuse of the drug creates both depressant and mild hallucinogenic effects. Users report a set of distinct dose-dependent "plateaus" ranging from a mild stimulant effect with distorted visual perceptions at low does to a sense of complete dissociation from one's body. If an individual consumes large doses of a cold medication containing dextromethorphan, it may cause a number of adverse effects, including impaired judgment and mental performance, loss of coordination, dizziness, nausea, hot flashes, dissociation, and hallucinations. Parents should be concerned if they notice that their child taking excessive amounts of a cold and flu remedy, or if he or she continues to take medicine even after symptoms have subsided. Likewise, if cough and cold medications seem to disappear from the medicine cabinet or if you find packages of cough and cold medications in the child's room or backpack, he or she may be abusing the product. Cold medications containing DXM produce very, very severe nausea prior to the opiate like high, so there's a natural barrier against extended use in large segments of the population. Downing a bottle of cough syrup may be rough on the stomach, but kids have learned that popping a handful of cold medication such as Coricidin tablets is far less disruptive to the digestive tract. And it's the abuse of the so-called Triple-C's that appears to be on the rise.
The abuse of cold medication abuse has the potential to become an epidemic, and it is extremely dangerous. Teens do not know exactly what type of cold medications to take; and they could quickly overdose through experimentation. "We need to build awareness among kids of the potential harm that taking extreme amounts of these products can cause," says Virginia Cox of the Consumer Health Care Products Association in Washington. Until that awareness has reached every household in America, parents must remain on high alert, for the signs of cold medication abuse. The best thing a parent can do to help a teen who is abusing cold medications is to give them the gift of drug treatment.