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The Dangers of Cough Syrup Abuse

Cough syrup abuse is a serious problem among teenagers, with many teens using the drugs for recreational purposes due to their euphoric effects. Addiction to this seemingly harmless drug can lead to severe physical and psychological health issues, such as blackouts, impaired judgment, memory loss, and even death in extreme cases. Cough syrup abuse can also impact academic performance, interpersonal relationships, and employment opportunities. If you or someone you love is experiencing signs of cough syrup abuse, you may need to seek cough syrup addiction treatment. Contact us at 877.466.0620 to learn about our teen drug addiction treatment programs, including cough syrup addiction treatment.

Signs of Cough Syrup Abuse

The key ingredient in modern over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine is dextromethorphan (DXM). DXM medicines are widely available in pharmacies and supermarket drug stores and cost just a few dollars – perfect criteria for teens to capitalize on. Cough syrup addiction can be challenging to recognize in teens because of the secretive nature of the abuse. Some signs of cough syrup abuse include the following:

  • Coughing and difficulty breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Drowsiness or confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Changes in behavior, such as aggression or mood swings
  • Unusual credit card bills from unrecognized vendors
  • Disappearing money from your wallet, purse, or storage box
  • Missing or empty containers of cough syrup from the medicine cabinet
  • Suspicious drug websites in the search history of your child’s computer, phone, or tablet

Ask a doctor, teacher, or someone your teen trusts to speak with them if talking to them is not working. Aim to inform, not confront.

Consequences of Cough Syrup Abuse

When abused, cough syrup affects the brain in ways that resemble illegal drugs. High doses of DXM interfere with receptors in the brain, causing hallucinations, euphoria, and loss of motor control. As with other drugs such as cocaine and opioids, DXM triggers the release of dopamine, the brain chemical responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward. By knowing the risks and opening the lines of communication, parents and teens can work together to avoid the dangers of cough syrup addiction. DXM is commonly sold at dance parties and raves under the guise of PCP. When taken in hot settings or during periods of intense physical activity, DXM can induce the following:

  • Hyperthermia
  • Potentially life-threatening fever
  • Vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Seizures
  • Organ failure.

The dangers of cough syrup extend beyond just DXM. Many DXM-based cough medicines also contain antihistamines, expectorants, decongestants, analgesics, and other potentially harmful chemicals. Acetaminophen, a widely used pain reliever in DXM medicines, can cause fatal liver damage when taken in large doses. Combining large amounts of DXM with decongestants can cut off oxygen to the brain, resulting in permanent damage. Other severe consequences include sedation, blurred vision, hypertension, extreme fatigue, seizures, heart failure, and death. When DXM is taken with alcohol or other drugs, the risk of these severe symptoms increases drastically.

Cough Syrup Addiction Treatment For Teens at Destinations for Teens

At Destination for Teens, we provide comprehensive treatment programs to help teens struggling with cough syrup addiction heal and recover. Our team of experts works together to create a plan tailored to the individual needs of each teen. Treatment includes evidence-based therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and family therapy. We also offer medications to help teens manage withdrawal symptoms and emotional distress when detoxing from cough syrup and other substances. We work together with the teen’s family to provide education about addiction, how to support the teen’s recovery, and how to maintain a healthy life after treatment. If you or your teenager is battling cough syrup addiction, contact us at 877.466.0620 at Destinations for Teens today.