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Parent Alert - White Teens and Girls Most Likely to Abuse Cold Meds

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, January 10, 2008 9:51 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Toxic Substances, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Defective Drugs

#.1 million teens are abusing over the counter cough and cold meds especially young teen girls.


About five percent of American teenagers or 3.1 million are getting high on cough and cold medicines and young teenage girls, 12 to 17 are the most frequent abusers.

The data on 45,000 12 to 25 year olds was collected by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service (SAMHSA) for the year 2006 and offers the best picture yet on the widespread abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medications. 

NyQuil was the cold medicine most frequently chosen 30 percent of the time by young teen girls, followed by 18 to 25 year old young men.   Caucasians had a three times higher abuse rate than African-Americans.   The level of abuse is comparable to the use of LSD, and the drug ecstasy but greater than abuse of methamphetamine among the age group.  82 percent also report using marijuana.

NyQuil, Coricidin and Robitussin and 140 formulations include the active ingredient dextromethorphan or DMX, a synthetic derivative of morphine. DMX is  known to cause hallucinations and an “out of body” experience in large doses.   Users can also experience muscle spasms, irregular heartbeat and vomiting.    Its use was also linked to a murder by a Nebraska teen using DMX who allegedly stabbed his friend to death.

The survey tells me that parents need to be very concerned about the over-the-counter medicines that they have in their medicine cabinet," Dr. H. Westley Clark, director of SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, said in a telephone interview to ABC News. 

In a 2005 survey, The Partnership For a Drug Free America found that teens think abusing common OTC medicines is safer than using illegal drugs

The data does not provide any trends when compared to previous years though the Partnership For a Drug Free America is launching a public awareness campaign for parents and teens about OTC drug risks.  #

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