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Teens Addicted to Cold Medicine

by Dore Frances, IEC, M.A., founder of Horizon Family Solutions, LLC
Do you know what skittling is?

How about tussing, playing space monkey or the fainting game? Do you know which items in your medicine cabinet can give kids a "high?"

If you don't, you need to learn -- as chances are your kid knows. They're all risky behaviors teens are engaging in these days.

Although it's been all over the news lately, chugging cough medicine for an instant high certainly isn't a new practice for teens. They've been raiding the medicine cabinet for a quick, cheap, and - more importantly - legal high for decades. But recent coverage of the dangerous, potentially deadly practice of intentionally overdosing on cough and cold medicine has put parents, educators, and emergency departments on the alert.

Medicines containing dextromethorphan are easy to find, affordable for cash-strapped teens, and perfectly legal. Getting access to the dangerous drug is often as easy as walking into the local drugstore with a few dollars or raiding the family medicine cabinet. And because it's found in over-the-counter medicines, many teens are naively assuming that DXM can't be that dangerous.

The key ingredients in over-the-counter cough remedies may prove addictive, even deadly to some who abuse it. Ever lose sleep worrying about your teen-ager and drugs? Lots of kids, it turns out, are tripping, experiencing highs akin to LSD or PCP, on massive quantities of cough and cold medicines that are sold over the counter every day. more than 140 of them contain the ingredient dextromethorphan. By some estimates there have been more than a dozen DXM related deaths. Coricidin contains 30 milligrams of dextromethorphan, more than other cold medicine. In the silence of cyberspace, there's a far flung community of devoted DXM abusers swapping recipes for cough syrup brownies and Coricidin cocktails, and dispensing advice on how to reach higher highs or plateaus.

The National Institute for Drug Abuse is now sounding an alarm about DXM, listing it as an hallucinogen, along with LSD and PCP. Even though cough medications are sold over the counter, some pharmacies are now keeping them behind the counter, to keep kids from stealing them.

A family who came to Horizon Family Solutions for assistance with their son were interviewed by their local TV station -

Parents Warn of Teen Over-the-Counter Drug Abuse

The availability of over-the-counter and prescription medications in the family medicine cabinet provides easy access for teens. Teens often mistakenly believe that these medications are safe because they are approved by the FDA and are prescribed by a physician.

Other students we have assisted shared the following:

"I was looking for something that was easy to find, easy to do and something I enjoyed. And I had heard about DXM from my boyfriend at the time - because he and his friends were all into this stuff, so I was like 'I'm gonna try it.' ~ Keri, Age 14

"DXM was actually introduced to me by a friend that I've know for a very long time. He told me to try it one time and it got really bad from there. "~ John, age 13

In addition to Triple C, other street names for DXM include: Candy, C-C-C, 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 Robitussin or another cough syrup to achieve their desired high).

What's such a powerful drug doing in cold medicine?

It seems to me that while we focus so much energy and money fighting the drug wars, it boggles the mind that we sell equally potent drugs over the counter at grocery stores.

Dore Frances, IEC, is an educcational consultant, childs right advocate, parent coach, specializing in working with troubled teens and their families in the United States, Canda, and abroad. See her site at: or contact her by phone at:(541) 312-4422, or email
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Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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