Parent, community alert: New
over-the-counter drug abuse trend puts teens at risk
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The Logan County Alcohol, Tobacco and Other
Drugs Task Force urges the community to take action against teen
over-the-counter drug abuse. Although alcohol and tobacco use
continue to have a devastating affect on our youth, a new and
alarming trend among teens is creeping across America, affecting
communities like ours everywhere. There are code names for it:
Skittles, Robo, Triple Cs, Dex, Tussin and Vitamin D, to mention a
few. It is the practice of getting high by taking excessive doses of
over-the-counter cough medications.
These are the same remedies that we commonly stock in our medicine
cabinets and are readily available in drugstores and supermarkets
everywhere. The "high" is caused by dextromethorphan, known
familiarly as DXM, and is an active ingredient in more than 100
nonprescription cough syrups, tablets and gel caps like Dimetapp DM,
Robitussin, Sudafed and Vicks 44. A normal dose of cough medicine is
15-30 milligrams. Remarkably, kids are sometimes ingesting 25-50
times the recommended doses in an attempt to get high.
used as directed, has a long history of being safe and effective.
However, when taken in large doses, it can produce a hallucinogenic
high, along with dangerous side effects, caused by the DXM itself or
other active ingredients in the medicine. Among them are stomach
pain and heart problems, as well as delusions, depression, high
blood pressure, loss of consciousness, nausea and vomiting,
numbness, rashes, and seizures.
Certainly as a community, we want to ensure that over-the-counter
cough and cold medicines containing DXM remain accessible to those
who need them. However, the potential for abuse among youth demands
our immediate attention. Toward that end, the Logan County ATOD Task
Force, a coalition comprised of local organizations and concerned
individuals, is working to educate parents, youth and the community
on abuse of over-the-counter drugs.
Authorities tell us that DXM overdoses typically occur in
clusters, as word about the "high" spreads in a community's middle
and high schools. According to a recent study, it's estimated that
one out of 10 people age 12 to 17 -- that's 2.4 million kids from
all backgrounds and geographic areas -- say that they have taken
cough remedies to get high.
In our community alone, the Logan County 2008 Illinois
Youth Survey showed that 18 percent of eighth-graders said
they had used over-the-counter drugs for a nonmedical purpose
at least once in the past 12 months.
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It is vital that adults, particularly parents, be aware of the
possible signs of abuse.
|It should raise a red flag if... your child makes
frequent purchases of over-the-counter cough
preparations from the same or different stores, or from
the Internet (for example, note the arrival of
unexpected packages); hides cough medicine bottles in
his or her bedroom; is exhibiting odd behavior; has
declining grades; has a loss of interest in friends and
activities; or is experiencing hallucinations or any of
the side effects mentioned above.
Be vigilant about your medicine cabinets. Know what's
in there, keep track of your medicines, and discard
over-the-counter and prescription medications that you
If you suspect a problem, immediately contact a local
substance abuse prevention and intervention
professional, such as your pediatrician or family
The time to educate and act is now. Everything depends on it, for
while our children make up only 25 percent of our national
population, they represent 100 percent of our future.
If you are interested in joining in the effort or want more
information, please contact Kristi Lessen, director of the Healthy
Communities Partnership, at 217-732-5066 or come to a monthly Logan
County Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Task Force meeting. The group
meets at noon on the second Friday of the month at the Logan County
Department of Public Health.
[By CAMILLE SPRINGER, Logan County
community prevention coordinator and Logan County ATOD Task Force
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