Young Americans abusing over the counter cough medicine.

More than ever, young Americans are misusing over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. Once seen as just harmless drugs to get rid of the sniffles, young Americans are now using them to get high.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 3.1 million Americans age 12-25 used over-the-counter cough or cold medicines to get high. This is according to their 2007 National Survey on Drug Use And Health report.

More specifically, according to the study, “30.5 percent misused a NyQuil® product, 18.1 percent misused a Coricidin® product, and 17.8 percent misused a Robitussin® product in the past year.”

The chemical contained in product of this kind is called dextromethorphan (DXM),  and it is contained in nearly 140 over-the-counter drugs.  The cough suppressant is safe if taken in recommended doses, but can create a ‘high’ feeling if misused.

If DXM is taken in large amounts an “out-of-body” experience can occur.  This is much like the same experiences that can be had with the more illicit drug phencyclidine (PCP).

Just as with any street drug, overdosing on DXM can happen.  There can be life threatening reactions to the drug including: blurred vision, loss of physical coordination, intense abdominal pain, vomiting, uncontrolled violent muscle spasms, irregular heartbeat, delirium, and death. Because of this trend, there have been more reports of poisoning by DXM.

Today, most products containing DXM are now behind the pharmacy counter, but still available without a prescription.  Now most pharmacies require the person buying the substance to show identification.

The accessibility of this kind of ‘high’ is what is most frightening for parents. DXM is relatively easy to get and may already be in the young adult’s home for access. Keeping tabs on your medicine cabinet is never a bad idea when there are young adults and children in the home. It could to drug use that requires addiction treatment centers or as a gateway to other drugs resulting in the need for dual diagnosis treatment later.

read the full report here.

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