Cough Medicine Abuse

Cough and cold medicines are some of the most common household medicines. They can be purchased over the counter without a prescription, and are available at many grocery stores and pharmacies, packaged in pill, tablet and liquid form. They are also often inexpensive, and in most states there is no minimum age limit to be able to purchase them. However, just because the active ingredients in cough medicine are not controlled substances doesn’t mean these medications are without the risk for harm or abuse. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.

There is a common idea that cough medicine is abused for its alcoholic content, and although some brands may have small amounts of alcohol, this is largely a misconception. The real danger comes from dextromethorphan, an ingredient found in many different kinds of cough and cold medicines. People who use products containing dextromethorphan may develop a psychological dependency on the effects of the drug; however, there does not seem to be a trend of withdrawal symptoms that would suggest the possibility of a physical addiction.

Effects of Cough Medicine Abuse

Cough medicine at regularly prescribed doses is generally not considered dangerous. With normal use, it targets the area of the brain that controls coughing, and may offer relief from the aches and pains associated with a cough, the common cold or flu. At higher doses, however, it is classified as a dissociative general anesthetic and hallucinogen, and can have a similar effect on an individual as PCP or ketamine, both of which are controlled substances.

There are different levels of effects from dextromethorphan in cough medicine depending on the user and the amount of medicine ingested. At moderate levels, a user may feel a sense of euphoric invincibility, slight hearing variances and symptoms similar to vertigo. But as the dose increases, so do the corresponding mental and psychological effects. At higher concentrations, a user may feel an intense blissful euphoria, closed eye hallucinations and have a dissociative and active, sometimes childlike, imagination. At its highest levels, users have described such intense reactions as out-of-body experiences, connection to “higher powers” and temporary psychosis. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.

Potential Dangers of Cough Medicine

People who abuse cough medicines containing dextromethorphan often take considerably more than a regular dose, sometimes up to 10 or more times the recommended amount. This level of concentration is potentially toxic and, over time, deadly. In many brands of cough medicine, dextromethorphan is paired with acetaminophen (Tylenol®), a powerful pain reliever. In high doses, this may lead to acute liver failure, which would cause any future use of medicines containing dextromethorphan or acetaminophen to be potentially fatal.

While cough medicine can be helpful at reducing cold and flu symptoms, and is readily available without a doctor’s prescription, its active ingredient dextromethorphan makes it both potentially dangerous and easy to abuse. As with any drug, controlled or otherwise, cough medication should always be taken as directed and kept out of reach of children. If you’re unable to stop abusing cough medicine or you’re experiencing negative consequences from your use, call Journey today. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.