PARENT REALITY CHECK: Do you know the signs of cold and cough syrup medicine addiction? If not, it’s time to get educated. If you need any motivation read these troubling stats: 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. Only 45 percent of teens believe that abusing cough medicine to get high is risky.
Every parent worries about drugs, but did you ever think that some of your biggest nightmares might be right there in your medicine cabinet? That over-the-counter red and orange stuff you buy to stop your child’s cough is just one of the medicine today’s teens are using and abusing. Although Dextromethorphan–or DXM–(the ingredient found in most popular nonprescription cold and cough medicines) can be safely taken in 15 to 30 milligram doses, when taken in significant doses can produce euphoric highs and even hallucinations. And many kids are taking sometimes as much as 25 to 50 times the recommended dose to get that high.
The American Medical Association released a warning to parents that when kids take this in large amounts it can become a dangerous, even deadly mind-altering drug and intake is on the rise.Perhaps because medicines containing DXM are easily accessible in drug stores (or medicine cabinets), is legal cold-and cough syrup abuse has soared in recent years.
Let’s get educated about medicine abuse especially cold and cough syrup addiction. (Though please beware that kids are also abusing prescription drugs). Let’s learn the signs of medicine abuse and what we can do to help prevent a tragedy, and then let’s spread the word to other parents so we can protect all our kids.
On a TODAY show segment I shared the following signs and solutions to parents. Please read these signs carefully. Cold and cough syrup abuse is dangerous. Knowing the signs may help to save a child’s life.
Signs of Cold and Cough Syrup Addiction
Look for side effects of DXM abuse. These include confusion, impaired judgment, blurred vision, dizziness, itching, drowsiness, paranoia, excessive sweating, slurred speech, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, headaches, facial redness, disorientation.
Listen for code names. Names kids use for cough medicine include: Dex, DXM, Skittles, Poor Man’s PCP, Candy, Red Devils, Robo, Velvet, Vitamin D, Syrup, Tussin, Triple-C, and CCC. Popular expressions for abusing over-the counter cough medicine are Robo-tripping, Dexing, Robo-fizzing, and Skittling. Users are sometimes called “syrup heads” or “robotards.
Look for empty medicine wrappers or bottles. Teens (and tweens) either take several pills or smash them so all of it is released at once. Look also for unusual medicinal smells on your child or in his or her room.
Be aware of other signs such as: a change in friends, physical appearance and hygiene, eating or sleeping patterns; hostile and uncooperative attitude; unexplained disappearance of household money; visits to pro-drug web sites
What You Can Do To Protect Teens from Cough Medication Abuse
Check your medicine cabinet or even lock it. Keep track of how much medicine is in each bottle or container. Keep OCT medicines that could potentially be abused in less accessible places. Please also keep your own pain medications under lock and key as well as if any sibling’s prescriptions for Ritalin or similar-type drug. Abuse of prescription drug abuse is a hot teen craze right now. Check your credit card statements: kids are buying many of these drugs on the Internet).
Read those labels. Look for medicines that contain dextromethorphan or DXM in the active ingredient section of the OTC Drug Facts label. Examples include Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold & Cough Medicine, Sucrets, Theraflu. Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold, Dayquil LiquiCaps, Dimetapp DM, Robitussin cough products, Sudafed cough products, Triaminic cough syrups, Tylenol Cold products, Vicks 44 Cough Relief products, and Vicks NyQuil LiquiCaps.
Don’t stockpile on OTC medicines. It might tempt your teen.
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.
Talk about the dangers. Kids perceive that because cough and cold medications are available in drug stores they are safe. Talk about the dangers of abuse (and combining those medications with alcohol and other drugs). Also know that kids are abusing many other items such as shoe polish, rubber cement, white-out, and antihistamines and Ritalin to get high.
Join the Five Moms Campaign. Read how five moms decided to tell other parents about teen cough syrup medicine abuse and how they are succeeding in spreading their message to millions of parents. They have now reached over 24 million parents.
One Mom’s Tragic Story of Her Son’s Cough Medicine Abuse
I received an email from Misty Fetko, one of those five moms in the Five Moms Campaign, who asked me to post her letter in one of my blogs to help parents be aware of the deadly consequences of medicine abuse. If you ever had a ounce of doubt about the dangers of cold or cough medication, please read her letter. Then go clear out your medicine cabinet, pass Misty’s letter on to other parents, and join their crucial campaign. Thank you Misty and the Five Moms for your efforts to educate parents on this critical and dangerous issue.
My name is Misty Fetko. I am a registered nurse, mom of two, and the newest member of the Five Moms: Stopping Cough Medicine Abuse campaign. As I have been told, you have been one of the biggest allies of the Stop Medicine Abuse program, and I speak for everyone who’s been involved (even though I’m new!) when I say thank you for what you’ve done for these initiatives.
In 2003, I discovered my older son, Carl, unresponsive in his bedroom. He passed away that day from a lethal mix of drugs including Fentanyl, a prescription narcotic; marijuana; and dextromethorphan (DXM), the active ingredient in over-the-counter cough medicines.
As an emergency room nurse, I know about substance abuse from first-hand experience, but even with all that knowledge I never knew that teens were abusing cough medicine to get high. I’ve joined the Five Moms campaign in an effort to ensure that parents have all the information about medicine abuse that I unfortunately did not have.
As a widely read and influential voice in the online community, I am asking you to help me spread the word about the dangers of medicine abuse among your readers.
How do you plan to use National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month to talk about the issue of OTC cough medicine abuse among teens? Share your story on the Stop Medicine Abuse Facebook fan page atwww.facebook.com/stopmedicineabuse.
For more solutions on this troubling trend or 101 others as well as learning the signs, late-breaking research, and proven solutions to curb these behaviors look to The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries. Refer to the chapters on Drinking, Steroids, Peer Pressure, Sex, Communicating or go to my website: Michele Borba and follow me on twitter @micheleborba