Cough Syrup

Cough Syrup

What Is Cough Syrup? 

Cough syrup, or cold medicine, is taken by millions of individuals each year to treat symptoms of a common cold, such as coughing, sneezing, and runny nose. Cough syrup is generally safe when taken as directed. However, cough syrup can also be misused by individuals seeking to get high from taking larger than recommended doses or mixing cough syrup with other substances, such as alcohol.

Generally, cough syrup that contains the ingredients codeine, promethazine, or dextromethorphan (DXM) may be abused. Cough syrup containing codeine requires a prescription, so cough syrups containing promethazine or dextromethorphan are more commonly abused, as they are able to be purchased over-the-counter. Due to their availability and accessibility, these cough medicines are particularly likely to be abused by adolescents. 

Effects of Cough Syrup Abuse

Consuming large quantities of cough syrup can result in some potent, and hazardous, effects. Effects of cough syrup abuse may include: 

  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Excessive sweating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting 
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Itchy skin
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Dangers of Cough Syrup Abuse 

According to a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately one million youth and young adults, ranging from age 12 to 25, misuse over-the-counter cough medicines each year in the United States, with dextromethorphan being the most commonly abused. One case study states, “Dextromethorphan (DXM) has overtaken codeine as the most widely used cough suppressant due to its availability, efficacy, and safety profile when taken at directed doses.

When used at recommended dosing levels, cold and cough products containing DXM cause minor, if any, adverse effects. The most significant cause of adverse effects is DXM abuse. When the suggested dosing regimen of DXM is surpassed for recreational use, an abundance of psychiatric symptoms can result. The effects are dose-dependent and vary from mild motor and cognitive impairment to PCP-like para-psychotic symptoms such as delusions, dissociative states, paranoia, and visual hallucinations. This combination of symptoms can lead to impulsive or violent acts, such as assault, suicide, or homicide.”

On its own or when combined with alcohol to create the popular concoction known as “lean,” “purple haze,” and “sizzurp,” cough syrup abuse can be addictive and deadly.

We Are Here To Help 

It is entirely possible to recover from abuse and addiction to cough syrup. Thousands of individuals have done so, with appropriate treatment, support, and commitment to recovery. If you are considering seeking addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, rest assured that help is widely available and recovery is possible. If you have questions or concerns, call us today. We at Rehab Carolinas are experienced in substance abuse and addiction and are here to help.