Despite its over-counter-availability, cough syrup is anything but harmless. Here's what you need to know about cough syrup addiction.
When most people think of drug addiction, they think of dependence "street" drugs like cocaine, heroin, or crystal meth. But a far more insidious type of drug abuse is destroying families across America: cough syrup addiction. Here are six things to know about cough syrup abuse.
Many cough syrups that are available over the counter contain codeine, an opiate, and Dextromethorphan (DXM), a drug of the morphinian family that can have sedative, dissociative, and even hallucinogenic effects when taken in large doses. Prescription cough syrups may also contain promethazine HCI, which has sedative properties. These drugs cause a flood of dopamine in the brain, leading the user to seek out increasingly higher doses to achieve the same effects as previously experienced and avoid symptoms of withdrawal.
While many users consume cough syrup directly from the bottle, cough and cold suppressants containing codeine and DXM are also available in tablet, gel capsule form. Drinking "sizzurp" -- cough syrup mixed with alcohol or a soft drink -- is yet another way that cough syrup users ingest their drug. A popular variation of sizzurp is promethazine HCI cough syrup mixed with alcohol and flavored with hard candies such as Jolly Ranchers.
Many people wrongly assume that because the ingredients in cold medication aren't illegal, they cannot cause serious injury or death. While it's true that codeine and DXM are unlikely to cause illness or death when taken as directed, abuse of these drugs can prove fatal. The active ingredients in cough and cold syrup work by suppressing the central nervous system and the respiratory system. When taken in large doses or combined with alcohol, another central nervous system depressant, these drugs can cause a user to stop breathing altogether. Taking DXM with other cold medications containing acetaminophen (Tylenol), chlorpheniramine (an antihistamine), or decongestants such as phenylephrine or pseudodoephedrine can result in:
While cough syrup addiction affects in people of all ages, it's particularly problematic among teenagers and young adults. After reviewing data from more than 44,000 cases occurring between 2000 and 2010, the National Institute of Health (NIH), found dextromethorphan abuse to be seven times more prevalent in 15 to 19-year-olds than in the general U.S. population. According to the DEA, one in every 10 teens has used cough medicine to get high.
If taken in high doses, cough syrups containing codeine and DXM can produce a high similar to that of PCP or Ketamine the "date rape drug"). Doses exceeding of 500 milligrams can cause hallucinations or an "out of body experience," during which the user is completely disconnected from his or her surroundings. This effect is sometimes called "robotripping" or "skittling."
People who stop abusing dextromethorphan can experience symptoms of physical withdrawal, such as:
The good news is that these symptoms are usually only temporary, as are any mental conditions that may have developed as a result of long-term cough syrup abuse.
Treatment for dextromethorphan abuse involves inpatient rehabilitation along with long-term counselling to reduce the patient's chances of relapsing. For more information about how Durham Drug Treatment Centers can help you or a loved one battling cough syrup addiction, by giving you options.