Helping Teens Who Abuse Cold and Cough Medicine
Consuming cough medicine for an instant high certainly isn’t a new practice for teens. Many have raided the medicine cabinet for a quick, cheap, and legal high for decades. This is a dangerous and deadly practice is on the rise. So it’s important for parents to understand the risks and know how to prevent their kids from intentionally overdosing on cough and cold medicine.
About Medicinal Abuse
Before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) replaced the narcotic codeine with dextromethorphan as an over the counter (OTC) cough suppressant in the 1970s, teens were simply guzzling down cough syrup for a quick buzz. Over the years, teens discovered that they still could get high by taking large doses of any OTC medicine containing dextromethorphan (also called DXM).
DXM can be found in:
- Gel caps
- Anything labeled DM, cough suppressant, or Tussin
Medicines containing dextromethorphan are easy to find, affordable for low-income teens, and ironically legal. Getting access to the dangerous drugs is as easy as walking into the local dollar store to buy helium-filled balloons. And because it’s found in over-the-counter medicines, many teenage girls and boys naively assume that DXM can’t be dangerous.
What happens with DXM consumption?
Although DXM can be safely taken in small doses to suppress a cough, abusers tend to consume as much as an entire bottle in one sitting. Teenagers taking mass quantities of products containing DXM can cause hallucinations, loss of motor control, and dissociative sensations.
Possible Side Effects
- Impaired judgement
- Disorientation (slurred speech or blurry vision)
- Abdominal Pain
- Irregular heartbeat
Our Affordable Boarding School for Troubled Boys Advises Prevention of Medicinal Abuse
- 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.
- If you suspect your teen is abusing OTC medications, 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 odd-looking tablets (DXM is often sold on the Internet and on the street in its pure form in various shapes and colors).
- Monitor your child’s Internet usage. Be on the lookout for suspicious websites and emails that seem to be promoting the abuse of DXM or other drugs, both legal and illegal.