Addicted to cough syrup

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Addicted to cough syrup

It is not just prescription drugs that are a hazard in your medicine cabinet. With peak flu season approaching more people will have cough syrup in their cabinets. Due to its accessibility and availability, it is the go to over-the-counter medicine for a stubborn cold or cough.


Many brands of cough syrup contain ingredients that are mind-altering, tempting for a teenager seeking a high. A common ingredient that has intoxicating side effects is dextromethorphan (DXM). When taken in high dosages, this ingredient can cause hallucinations. DXM can also produce a euphoria effect, making the abuser feel light. Since it takes more than one dose of cough syrup with DXM to feel the high, users are often drinking whole bottles to get a buzz.

Taking cough syrup in higher than recommend dosages, may sound harmless compared to abusing other drugs. It can lead to addiction and other negative health effects, like slowing down the central nervous system. Other side effects include increased blood pressure, nausea, loss of coordination, and lack of oxygen to the brain.

According to NIDA, up to 5 percent of children from ages 13-18 abuse cough syrup. It is recommended to keep your cough syrup locked away and out of reach of children. Convenience stores are required to check IDs for some cough syrups, ensuring the buyer is over 18 years of age.

Treatment for DXM abuse will consist of a number of different components, such as initial inpatient admission, medically assisted treatments and participation in some form of social support. Many individuals will need additional treatments for co-occurring disorders and special interventions for specific needs, such as tutoring, job training, occupational therapy, speech therapy, etc.