Some over-the-counter and prescription cough and cold medicines contain active ingredients that are psychoactive, which means they produce mind-altering effects. People who abuse over-the-counter and prescription cough and cold medicines often take higher than recommended and more frequent doses in order to get high. Teens often abuse over-the-counter cough and cold medicines due to availability. There are serious health risks associated with cough and cold medicine abuse. It is important to understand how cough and cold medicines are abused, the signs of abuse, and ways to help someone suffering from cough and cold medicine addiction.
What Are Commonly Abused Cough and Cold Medicines?
The two most commonly abused cough and cold medicines are:
Dextromethorphan (DXM): a cough suppressant and expectorant found in many over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. It has been found to produce euphoric and dissociative and hallucinogenic effects when taken in high doses.
Promethazine-codeine cough syrup: a prescription cough medication that contains codeine, an opioid. It has been found to produce euphoria and relaxation when taken in higher than recommended or prescribed doses. It also contains promethazine, an antihistamine that produces sedative effects. Although this drug is only legally available by prescription, users access the drug through a variety of illicit channels.
How Are Cough and Cold Medicines Abused?
Individuals, who abuse cough and cold medicines, both over-the-counter and prescription, take higher doses than what would be prescribed for a medical condition. Due to this, the health risks associated with cough and cold medicines are serious. When someone is taking cough and cold medicine without a doctor’s prescription, without a medical need, or taking doses other than prescribed, they are abusing the drug.
How Do Cough and Cold Medicines Affect the Brain?
When over-the-counter and prescription cough and cold medicines are taken when needed and as prescribed, they are able to effectively treat cough and cold symptoms. When abused, the psychoactive ingredients affect the brain similar to that of other illegal drugs. DXM affects the brain cell receptors similar to the way ketamine and PCP do. DXM can cause disassociation and hallucinations, similar to ketamine and PCP. The active ingredients in some the prescription cough and cold medicine, promethazine-codeine cough syrup are codeine and promethazine. Codeine attaches to the same brain cell receptors as opioids like Vicodin and Heroin. Both codeine and promethazine act as a central nervous system depressant, producing sedative and calming effects. DXM and codeine increase dopamine levels, causing euphoria. This contributes to the development of emotional dependence, physical dependence and addiction.
What are the Side Effects and Health Risks Associated with Cough and Cold Medicine Abuse?
Health Risks Associated with Dextromethorphan (DXM):
- Impaired motor function
- Loss of coordination
- Nausea or Vomiting
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Elevated body temperature
- Excess acid in body fluids
- Acetaminophen toxicity – possible liver damage
- Possible brain damage due to lack of oxygen
Individuals that abuse over-the-counter cough and cold medicines that contain DXM are often unaware of the high doses of acetaminophen present in the medication. High levels of acetaminophen can result in an acetaminophen overdose, leading to liver damage and even death.
Health Risks Associated with Promethazine-Codeine Cough Syrup:
- Slowed heart rate
- Slowed Breathing
Cough and Cold Medicine Abuse is a Rising Concern
Teens are abusing cough and cold medicine, especially over-the-counter drugs, due to accessibility. Although many drugstores require age verification and will not sell certain cough and cold medicines to anyone under the age of 18, teens are often able to access the drug by stealing the medication, by purchasing the drug online, and through a variety of illicit channels. Teens are often under the misconception that taking over-the-counter and prescription cough and cold medications is safer than illegal drugs. This is false. The side effects and health risks associated with cough and cold medicine abuse are serious and can be life-threatening. Cough and cold medication and quickly develop into dependence and addiction. If you are concerned that someone you love is abusing anabolic steroids it is imperative that you take action. You can never be to safe or intervene too early. If you know someone that needs help please do not hesitate to give us a call and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Please call (888)357-7577 or simply click the link below.