Why Do Kids Abuse Cough and Cold Remedies?

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).

Dextromethorphan-containing products — tablets, capsules, gel caps, lozenges, and syrups — are labeled DM, cough suppressant, or Tuss (or contain “tuss” in the title).

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 naively assume that DXM can’t be dangerous.



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