Teen Misuse of Cough Suppressant Rising

With a growing number of teens using cold medicine to get high, lawmakers are taking action to keep certain products from minors, the Christian Science Monitor reported June 1.

Teens are taking cold medications such as Coricidin Cough & Cold tablets and the cough suppressant dextromethorphan (DXM), available at any drugstore, to get high. According to drug counselors, there has been a substantial increase over the past few years in the misuse of cough suppressants. Actual numbers are difficult to track, however, because the drugs are legal.

“There’s potential for this to become epidemic, and it’s extremely dangerous. I don’t think the kids know exactly what type to take, and if they experiment with it, they could overdose quite easily,” said David Ettesvold, a drug-prevention counselor in Missouri.

Recognizing an increase in DXM misuse, parent groups are pressuring lawmakers and pharmacies to take action. To date, legislation has been introduced in California, New Jersey, and New York that would restrict the sale of cold products containing DXM to minors. In addition, some pharmacies are storing Robitussin and Coricidin behind the counter.

The Consumer Health Care Products Association (CHPA), a trade organization that represents makers of the over-the-counter-drugs, has launched an educational campaign to warn parents and educators about the dangers of having cold remedies stocked in the medicine cabinet. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America has also begun research to track the prevalence of DXM misuse.

“We need to build an awareness among kids of the potential harm that taking extreme amounts of these products can cause,” said Virginia Cox of CHPA.