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Cough Suppressant Abuse
Physicians in the emergency rooms are seeing more and more cases of cough suppressant abuse of over the counter (OTC's) cold meds containing Dextromethorphan (DXM) .DXM is a legal, FDA approved over the counter drug available in many cough suppressants in the United States. Just because these cough suppressants are sold over the counter without a doctor's prescription, it does not mean they are without risks. Cough suppressants which contain dextromethorphan can be extremely dangerous, even deadly when abused. DXM is the active ingredient in over 120 over the counter cold and cough medicines like Robitussin, Nyquil, Tylenol Cold, and many other cough suppressants .A recent survey given to middle school students found that 8% of teens abused these cough suppressants. The Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") reports that this epidemic has lead to a increase in emergency room visits over the last four years have increased by as much as 70% ,directly related to cough suppressant abuse, and other OTC's containing DXM. These cough suppressant medications should not be abused, and they should only be taken as directed. Mixing over the counter cough suppressant medications and illegal substances can lead to tragedy. The public could soon see increased regulations on over-the-counter cough suppressants as federal health regulators look to curb the abuse of popular cold remedies. "Because of the drug's perceived safety, ease of availability, and desired psychoactive effects, it is sought after by those seeking to alter their mental state," states the FDA review.
Teenagers have been known to take excessive doses of DXM. Often they mix it with another prescription drug or marijuana in order to get high. This dangerous practice is called "Robotripping." In addition to euphoric highs, there are reports that the practice can cause a spike in heart rate, blood pressure and body temperatures and in some cases, death. While 'robotrippers' hope to experience an altered mental state, they may not realize that these cough suppressants have all kinds of ingredients that they are taking at a high dosage, along with the dextromethorphan. For example, some cough suppressants contain acetaminophen to relieve aches and pains; a high dosage of this can damage the liver. And if they decide to mix alcohol with cough suppressants, they can have adverse side effects from combining substances that should not be taken together. Teenagers abuse cough suppressants containing DXM to get an LSD-like 'high' described as an 'out of body' experience. Hallucinations or vivid dreams that involve visions and sounds can also occur. When cough suppressants with DXM are abused, users can experience lethargy, slurred speech, confusion, hallucinations and seizures. While most of the effects are short term, there are rare occasions of DXM abusers developing a dependency or they begin to seek other 'hard-line' drugs. The younger adolescent age distribution is further underscored by the observation that recent surveys reporting the combined frequency among 12- to 13-year-old subjects exceeded that of 18-year-old subjects.
Preventive measures, such as placing cough suppressants containing dextromethorphan behind pharmacy counters, may be an effective action to limit this increasing trend of abuse in adolescents. A person does not have to take an illegal substance to end up with a substance abuse problem. There are likely a number of reasons for the increase in cough suppressant abuse. Cough suppressants containing dextromethorphan are sold over the counter at pharmacies and grocery stores, making them readily available and removing the stigma associated with illegal drugs. More children and teens now have unsupervised access to the Internet, where Web sites promoting abuse of these OTC's and even providing instructions on how to get high with cough suppressants containing DXM. If someone you love is abusing cough suppressants, or any other over the counter cold medication containing DXM, support them by helping to provide drug treatment, before long term damage occurs.