With flu season quickly approaching, some retailers and states are taking steps to avoid outbreaks of this sometimes fatal illness. Unfortunately, the common remedy that most people use without a second thought — cough syrup — is what some addicts abuse to get high. Here is what you need to know about cough syrup abuse and what one state is doing to prevent this dangerous trend.
What Is DXM?
Dextromethorphan, more commonly known as DXM, is the active ingredient in a wide variety of name brand and generic cough medicines. Although it is an effective treatment for cough and cold problems, it also helps people — especially young abusers — get high. The risks are extremely serious: sudden death can result from these over-the-counter medicines, which are sold in every pharmacy in America under brand names such as Nyquil, Robitussin, Zicam, Theraflu, Coricidin, and Dimetapp DM.
At the recommended doses, these medicines are safe to use as directed; unfortunately, when taken in larger quantities, abusers hallucinate and feel removed from reality. Some compare the effects of cough syrup to harder, dangerous drugs such as PCP and ketamine. Although DXM is not as popular among teenagers as alcohol or marijuana, about 10 percent have acknowledged using cough syrup to get high. That makes it more popular than cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, and meth.
Parents may spend time occasionally looking through their children’s things for signs of drinking or illicit substance abuse, such as beer cans, lighters, rolling papers, and other evidence. However, noticing empty medicine bottles or wrappers may not sound any internal alarms — and several addiction experts say this is a big mistake.
New York State
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that will prohibit the sale of DXM medicines to children under the age of 18 without a prescription. Users must present identification and limit purchase quantities as well. The drug, which is most popular with young men between the ages of 15 and 19, has caused fatalities. It is particularly dangerous when combined with other drugs or alcohol.
The new legislation will take effect in December 2013, although several downstate New York counties already have a ban in place.