RISKY TEEN BEHAVIORS: Cold and Cough Medication Addiction

by | Oct 8, 2007 | Uncategorized

This us the fourth in a series of Risky Teen Behaviors from a segment I did for the NBC Today Show. This next risky teen behavior is right in your medicine cabinet. Taking cough and cold medications continues to be a hot craze for kids. The trend IS increasing and younger kids are joining ranks. It is also the cause of addictions as well as deaths.

YOUR REALITY CHECK: When is the last time you checked your medicine cabinet for cold and cough syrup medications (especially those bearing the letter DXM)? What about your prescription drugs? One of the riskiest teen behaviors is right there in your own medicine cabinet. Are you noticing that any are disappearing? Pharmacies and drug stores are now locking these medicines up to fight off kid theft.

The ingredient found in most popular nonprescription cold and cough medicines — called Dextromethorphan or DXM– can be safely taken in the recommended dosage. However, when taken in high doses it can produce euphoric highs and hallucinations and can become a dangerous, ever deadly mind-altering drug. Many kids are taking as much as 25 to 50 times the recommended dose to get high. You do the math.

Get Savvy About the Stats on Cold and Cough Medication:

* One out of every fourteen kids aged 12 to 17 (more than 2.4 million) admit using cold or cough medicine “fairly recently” to get high.

* The highest incidents of abuse are amongst teens 15 to 16-year-olds.

* One in ten teens says they have used Vicodin, a potentially habit-forming painkiller. OxyContin, stimulants like Ritalin, inhalers (all prescription medications) are also widely used among teens. Beware of your own prescription medications.

* Only 45 percent of teens believe that abusing cough medicine to get high it risky. Talk seriously and firmly to your child about this issue.

What Parents Can Do

* Listen for code words: Skittling, Tussing, Skittles, Robo-tripping, Red Devils, Velvet, Triple C, C-C-C-, Robotard are some of the names kids use for cough and cold medication abuse.

* Keep track of how much medicine is in your house.Keep medicines that could potentially be abused in less accessible places.

* Read the labels. Look for medicines that contain dextromethorphan or DXM in the active ingredient section of the over-the-counter Drug Facts label.

* Don’t stockpile on over-the-counter medicines. It might tempt your teen or his friends.

* Monitor your teen’s Internet use.Many website and online communities promote the abuse of DMT or other drugs. Social networking sites such as MySpace, YouTube and Facebook provided detailed instructions for getting high as well as videos of kids abusing cough medicine.

* Join the Five Moms Campaign. Read how five moms decided to tell other parents about teen cough syrup abuse and how they are succeeding in spreading their message. I love these moms! They’re on a mission to spread the word and are succeeding. (the URL is www.fivemoms.com)

* Talk about the dangers. Kids perceive that because cough and cold medications are available in drug stores, they are safe.

* Stay on top of this!!! Kids are taking this stuff 25 to 50 times the recommended dosage and also taking it WITH alcohol. Doing so can be lethal. Teens also crunch up those little time capsules and take them in one lump dose.

* Check for empty bottles. Look in pockets, garbage cans, cars, under beds, etc. for empty wrappers.

* Smell your child for a medicinal odor.The cough syrup will have an odor. Pills will not.

* Check your child’s eyes. Check for slurry speech. Sleepiness. Wobbly walking. Check the alochol content on the cough syrup bottle. It may shock you.

* Listen and watch. Notice if your child complains of a cold or cough (but doesn’t have the symptoms).
Drug stores are keeping these medicines under lock and key (there are over 120 medicines with DXM in them). You should do so as well.

* Keep track of your own prescription drugs. Kids are abusing not only their parents’ painkillers but also their friends’ Ritalin supply. Get savvy!!

Get on board with other parents. Please pass this blog onto other moms and dads. And do what you always do: Talk, Talk, Talk to your child about cold and cough medication abuse. And then talk some more.

Michele Borba