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Parents and caretakers might be surprised to find out that some of the most commonly misused drugs by teenagers and young adults are the cough and cold medicines that are sitting in their own medicine cabinet. Some cough and cold medicines contain codeine, promethazine, dextromethorphan DXM and other narcotics that can make people feel high or relaxed.

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With over a decade of editing experience, Tom is a content specialist for Advanced Recovery Systems, The information has been screened and edited by health professionals to contain objective information on diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Contains bibliographic reference sources. Used as directed, it is an effective cough suppressant and expectorant, but it has a serious potential for misuse and is a particularly prominent teen drug abuse concern.

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Dextromethorphan DXM is a common ingredient found in many cough and cold remedies.

Dextromethorphan and other active ingredients

It helps stop a cough. Used as directed, DXM products are safe and work well. But DXM has become popular among teens who want a cheap, easy high. You can find it in at least 70 common over-the-counter OTC cough and cold medicines.

Teens and cough medicine abuse

DXM has no serious side effects when used in small doses. When taken in larger amounts, it can distort awareness and alter time perception. It can also cause hallucinations.

Cold medicines with DXM also have other ingredients that can be harmful in large amounts. These include acetaminophen or decongestants.

Combining high doses of DXM with alcohol is very unsafe, too. It can lead to death.

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Cough syrup abuse has been a problem for decades. But the concern in the past had been about the alcohol and codeine in cough and cold products. Because of that, the alcohol has been removed from most OTC cough and cold remedies. State laws also restrict the sale of products that have codeine. DXM seemed a good substitute to codeine and alcohol.

It had few, if any, side effects, when used as directed. And a larger amount of DXM such as drinking several bottles of cough syrup at one time would cause vomiting. But today, teens have options to drinking the syrup.

DXM is available in powder, capsule, and pill forms. You can find it online. These forms can be swallowed or snorted. Some websites even tell users how to extract DXM from cough syrup. They also advise users how much DXM to take to get high.

Cough syrup addiction explained

Illegal users may take mg to 1, mg of DXM at a time. All 3 are called dissociative substances. At high doses, they give the abuser a feeling of not being in one's own body. DXM also causes hallucinations. The effects can last up to 6 hours. But that can vary.

It depends on how much DXM is taken and what other drugs or chemicals are taken along with it. Regular abuse of DXM at high doses can lead to a chemical psychosis. They may need to be treated in a hospital.

They may also need to take medicine. As a parent, you should warn your children about the dangers of abusing OTC medicines.

Some teens believe that OTC medicines are safer to abuse because they are legal. Watch the OTC medicines in your home.

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Keep track of how much medicine is in each bottle. Don't allow your children to keep OTC medicines in their bedroom, backpack, or school locker.

Watch your children's internet use, keeping an eye out for websites visited that discuss OTC or other drug abuse. Search Encyclopedia.

Abuse on the rise Cough syrup abuse has been a problem for decades. Other effects of DXM include: Hot flashes Nausea, vomiting, and dizziness Lack of coordination Panic attack or seizures Impaired judgment Sweating Lethargy or drowsiness—or hyperactivity Slurred speech High blood pressure Rapid eye movement Rash Racing or pounding heartbeat Paranoia and hallucinations Feeling of floating Regular abuse of DXM at high doses can lead to a chemical psychosis.

What you can do As a parent, you should warn your children about the dangers of abusing OTC medicines. Here are other suggestions: Watch the OTC medicines in your home.

Don't buy extra OTC medicines to stock up. Use OTC and prescription medicines responsibly yourself.