Cough and cold medications are taken by millions of Americans each year to help relieve symptoms such as sore throats, fevers, coughing and sneezing. However, when taken in excess or without a doctor’s recommendation, medications can have psychoactive effects. Here are six things you may not know about abusing cough and cold medication.
When used appropriately, cough and cold medication can be effective at minimizing pesky flu symptoms. When abused, their ingredients can become dangerous and addictive. Here are six things you may not know about abusing cough and cold medication.
1. Why Cough and Cold Medication?
Teens abuse cough and cold medications for various reasons. Firstly, they are relatively inexpensive compared to other mind-altering drugs. Secondly, they are legal and easy to purchase. Thirdly, teens can achieve a “high” when taking medications in large doses.
2. How Common is This Abuse Amongst Teens?
Approximately one in ten teens in America abuse cough and cold medication. They might get it from the family medicine cabinet or purchase it legally from a drug store.
3. What is Dextromethorphan?
Dextromethorphan is an ingredient in common cough and cold medication that anyone can purchase in a drug store. Taking it in large doses can create feelings of euphoria and dissociation (feeling detached from your body). Dextromethorphan acts on the same cell receptors as drugs like ketamine or PCP.
4. What is Promethazine-Codeine?
Promethazine-codeine is present in prescription cough and cold medication which works as an opioid. This means that, when taken in high doses, it can create a sense of euphoria while also providing calming, depressive effects. Codeine attaches to the same cell receptors in the brain that heroin does.
5. What are Their Side Effects?
Abuse of cough and cold medication can have negative side effects such as nausea, hot flashes, impaired judgement, drowsiness, high blood pressure, paranoia, anxiety and addiction.
6. What Can I Do As a Parent?
As a parent, you might be wondering how you can prevent your teen from abusing cough and cold medications. Be sure to talk openly with your teen about effects, and avoid stockpiling over the counter (OTC) medications in easily accessible areas (such as medicine cabinets or drawers). It is also important to watch for possible signs of medication abuse. If you suspect your teen is abusing cough and cold medication, help them to seek professional medical support.
Feature image Jenni Konrad