Guest Commentary: Cough-medicine abuse is deadly threat to teens

By Salvinorin A · Aug 14, 2007 · ·
  1. Salvinorin A

    By DONNA WARD, Executive director, Substance Abuse Coalition of Collier County

    Saturday, August 11, 2007

    August is National Over-the-Counter Cough Medicine Abuse Awareness Month.
    The Substance Abuse Coalition of Collier County has joined forces with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to educate our community.
    When we think about drug abuse, illegal drugs sold on the street come to mind. But, as parents, we need to learn to recognize the risks of over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine abuse by our children, while learning how to prevent our children from overdosing on it.
    At least 5 percent of middle- and high-school students nationwide have reported abusing OTC cough and cold medicines, especially products containing the cough suppressant dextromethorphan (DXM) found in many cough syrups. Of course, these drugs are sold in our friendly, neighborhood pharmacies and not on the street by a pusher.
    Medicines containing DXM are easy to find, affordable for cash-strapped teens and perfectly legal. Getting the dangerous drug is often as easy as walking into the drugstore with a few dollars or raiding the family medicine cabinet. And, because it’s found in OTC medicines, many teens naively assume that DXM can’t be dangerous.
    DXM abuse is on the rise, according to recent studies, and easy access to OTC medications in stores and over the Internet may be contributing to the increase. The big difference between current abuse of cough and cold medicines and that in years past, is that teens now use the Internet to not only buy DXM in pure powder form, but to learn how to abuse it. Because drinking large volumes of cough syrup causes vomiting, the drug is being extracted from cough syrups and sold on the Internet in a tablet that can be swallowed or a powder that can even be snorted. Online dosing calculators even teach young abusers how much they’ll need to take, for their weight, to get high.
    Common street names for DXM include: Triple C, Candy, CCC, Dex, DM, Drex, Red Devils, Robo, Rojo, Skittles, Tussin, Velvet and Vitamin D. Users are sometimes called “syrup heads” and the act of abusing DXM is often called “dexing,” “robotripping” or “robodosing” because users chug cough syrup to achieve their desired high and the effects cause the individual to walk in a stiff, robotic state.
    Although DXM can be safely taken in 15- to 30-milligram doses to suppress a cough, abusers tend to consume as much as 360 milligrams or more. Taking mass quantities can cause hallucinations, loss of motor control and “out-of-body” dissociative sensations. Other possible side effects include: confusion, impaired judgment, blurred vision, dizziness, paranoia, excessive sweating, slurred speech, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, headache, lethargy, numbness of fingers and toes, facial redness, dry and itchy skin, and loss of consciousness, seizures, brain damage and even death.
    When consumed in large quantities, DXM can also cause hyperthermia or high fever. This is a real concern for teens who take DXM while in a hot environment, exerting themselves; it becomes even more dangerous when used with alcohol or some other drug.
    Parents, you can help prevent your teen from abusing OTC medicines by taking the following proactive steps:
    • Lock your medicine cabinet or keep those OTC medicines that could potentially be abused in a less-accessible place.
    • Avoid stockpiling OTC medicines. Having too many at your teen’s disposal could make abusing them more tempting.
    • Keep track of how much is in each bottle or container in your medicine cabinet.
    • Keep an eye out not only for traditional-looking cough and cold remedies in your teen’s room, but also strange-looking tablets (DXM is often sold on the Internet and on the street in its pure form in various shapes and colors).
    • Watch out for the possible warning signs of DXM abuse listed above.
    • Monitor your child’s Internet usage. Be on the lookout for suspicious Web sites and e-mails that may promote the abuse of DXM or other drugs — legal and illegal.
    • Finally, be sure to talk to your kids about drug abuse, and explain that while taking a lot of cough or cold medicine seems harmless, it’s not! Even when it comes from inside the family medicine cabinet or the drugstore, when taken in large amounts, DXM can be just as deadly as any street drug. Even if you don’t think your teens are doing it, chances are they may be or they know kids who are.
    To learn more, call the Substance Abuse Coalition of Collier County at 377-0535 or go online to
    We’re here to help strengthen the community’s resolve to decrease juvenile substance abuse through increased education, prevention services and support.

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  1. Salvinorin A
    First of all, there's an entire month dedicated to being aware of drugs in the store? yeesh

    and this was annoying:

    SWIM doesn't know anyone that goes by this reasoning. Most teens swim knew that even heard of robo-tripping were scared of it...except the people on CCC, you had to tell them about the other chemical before they figured it out, but any teens that swim knew that were at that point were a lost cause anyways (meaning they basically try every drug out there every day of the weak...and combine them). Don't mean to offend anyone if that's swiy, but even swiy would have to admit, it can get unhealthy being a super poly-drug user.

    Wow, I love how they post 3 "positive effects" (or reasons why someone would take it) and then a slap em with all the serious and painful ones, gotta love the media.

    The amount of dxm needed would drain the bottle or container, it's not gonna help if the user is already committed. You can't exactly skimp a little off the top.

    Robitussin, benadryl, and that I see all of them...I think i'll take em all at once.

    OMG!! this product has dxm in it!!! I shouldn't buy this...*cough* *cough* *sneeze*

    I hardly think this entire article is necessary. If any kid actually just read the dangers of taking DXM or other OTCs in high doses frequently, I'm sure they'd understand immediately (it can be done safely, and I wouldn't want my kids doing it either, but if my kid was using dxm for a good time, not the extreme dissociative effects, swim would just introduce them to weed, at least it's healthier). If we find a better, safer drug that can inhibit the cough reflex as effectively and affordably as dxm (there's a lot of things out there that can cure a cold or cough or w/e), then I'd at least understand some purpose for this article.

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