By DENISE HOEPFNER
Right now, in your medicine cabinet, is a drug that one in 10 teenagers has used to get high, according to The Partnership for a Drug-Free America. It is legal, readily accessible and relatively inexpensive. Chances are, you have never heard of it, yet you likely have enough on hand to provide at least one teen with enough to experience hallucinations, a sense of euphoria and loss of motor control.
The Coalition and Memorial Health System of East Texas, as part of National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month, held a press conference Wednesday to spotlight the growing trend of medicine abuse among teens, especially that of over-the-counter cough medicine.
Dextromethorphan (DXM), an ingredient found in cough suppressants, is found in over 100 over-the-counter products. It has been used as a non-prescription drug for more than 30 years, MHSET Pharmacist Robin Flournoy explained to the gathering of health care workers, school administrators and law enforcement officials attending the conference.
A normal dose of cough medicine is 15 to 30 milligrams, Flournoy said. To get high, some teens are ingesting as much as 240 to 360 milligrams.
"When abused, DXM produces a hallucinogenic high," Flournoy said. "It is not any safer than illegal drugs." Side effects from DXM abuse can include seizures, brain damage and death, Flournoy said.
The trend is new to Dr. Cristina Graves, a pediatrician at The Children's Clinic of Lufkin, she said, even though she treats young adults. After doing some research into the subject, Graves, mother of two young children, said she took inventory of her own medicine cabinet. "I had enough for two kids to get high," she said. "So if I had a baby-sitter and she had a friend over..."
DXM is often found in medicines with other ingredients that have serious side effects, like acetominophen and pseudoephedrin, which can add to the risk of overdose or permanent damage to the brain, liver and other vital organs, Graves said.
Making the problem even worse, she added, is the availability of harmful information on popular Internet sites like MySpace.com. "There are blogs and videos showing kids abusing this," she said. Other Web sites promote the use of DXM, offering detailed information about how to abuse the medicine and suggesting other drugs to combine it with to exacerbate the effects. DXM in its pure powdered form is also available on the Internet.
Medicine abuse also occurs at "pharming parties," Graves said. At a pharming party, teens bring different types of pills gathered from their homes or purchased from stores, mix them together and randomly consume tablets, Graves said.
A study by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America found only 8 percent of parents are aware of cough medicine abuse.
Some common medicines containing DXM (list is not all-inclusive) are; Contac, Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold, Tylenol cold medicines, Vicks 44 Cough Relief medicines, PediaCare cough medicines, Triaminic cough medicines, certain Robitussin cough medicines, and Sudafed cough medicines
For more information: www.doseofprevention.org.