Cough medicine abuse is more common than some people may think. It’s important to understand the dangers of abusing cough medicine and to know the signs and symptoms of abuse.
There are over-the-counter and prescription cough medicines that people frequently abuse because they contain mind-altering ingredients. The most common abused cough medicines are the ones that contain dextromethorphan or promethazine-codeine.
Dextromethorphan (DXM) is found in many of the over-the-counter cough medicines sold in tablet, gel or syrup form. If a cough and cold product includes “DM” on the package, then it contains (DXM). Cough medicines containing dextromethorphan (when taken at a higher-than-recommended dose) may cause a person to hallucinate or experience euphoria, drunkenness or even the feeling of being separated from one’s own body and identity which is known as a dissociative effect.
Promethazine-codeine is a cough syrup that contains codeine which is an opiate and is available only by prescription. Promethazine-codeine cough syrup acts as a sedative and produces a relaxation and euphoria when taken at a higher-than-recommended dose.
How Are People Abusing Cough Medicines?
Taking cough medicine when it’s not needed is obviously a sign of abuse and is often referred to as “robo-tripping” or “skittling.” The way that some teens and adults are abusing these meds are by mixing them with soda. They may even combine it with the use of alcohol and/or marijuana to create an intensified effect.
One of the popular mixtures with cough medicine is a combination of promethazine-codeine cough syrup mixed with soda, hard candies and/or alcohol. This concoction has names like purple drank, lean, barre, sizzurp or syrup, which has been referenced in some popular music beginning in the late 1990s.
Health Effects of Abusing Cough Medicine
Abusing cough medicine at higher-than-recommended doses can cause lasting physical or mental damage and even cause death. It can impair memory, language and mental performance and may also cause a full-blown psychosis with hallucinations. A person may also experience whole-body spasms where the head and heels go backwards and the torso bends forward. People have even damaged their liver and brain, suffered cardiac arrest and died or have stopped breathing entirely.
DXM combined with pseudoephedrine can trigger a heart attack or if DXM is mixed with other drugs it can cause central nervous system problems, illness or injury.
Promethazine-codeine cough syrup has been linked to the deaths of a few famous musicians.
Signs and Symptoms of Cough Medicine Abuse
Finding empty medicine bottles or boxes is clearly a clue that there may be an abuse problem. Another sign of abuse can be if you notice missing cough medicine from the cabinet or spot that medicine from the bottles or boxes are gradually disappearing each day.
Here are some physical signs of abuse:
- Slurred speech
- Blurred vision
- Impaired motor skills
- High blood pressure
- Changes in appearance
- Changes in habits
- Dissociative effects
- Mood swings
Is Cough Medicine Addictive?
An addiction can occur through the repeated use of cough medicine. Dextromethorphan can cause a psychological addiction. Promethazine-codeine cough syrup has codeine which is known to cause physical dependence.
Some physical withdrawal symptoms from promethazine-codeine cough syrup are:
- Muscle pains
- Restless legs
How to Help a Loved One Who is Abusing Cough Medicine
Whether psychologically or physically addicted to cough medicine or any other drug, the Narconon Fresh Start program addresses what is needed to help individuals overcome their addictions and live stable, successful lives without turning to drugs. Our drug detoxification program physically helps to eliminate drug residues from the body that can actually drive cravings, which is unlike any other drug rehab program in the world. Our extensive life skills program helps individuals to gain a sense of values and morals and take control of their life so that they can succeed and stay drug-free.
Feel free to call Narconon Fresh Start today to find out more about how our program works and how it can save you or a loved one from drug or cough medicine abuse.