After Kicking the Cold, Stow Away the Meds

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AfterKickingtheColdStowAwaytheMedsWhen people think of drug abuse they generally think of methamphetamines, opioids, heroin and marijuana. But prescription and over-the-counter drugs can be abused as well, with serious, life-threatening consequences. Cough and cold medicine abuse can cause serious health problems and can affect the brain in ways that are similar to illegal drugs.

The Thrill of Euphoria, Hallucination and Sedation

When individuals abuse cough and cold medicines they are usually seeking “the thrill of the pill” or “sedation from syrup.” Some abusers mix the medicine with soda or with alcoholic beverages. Others merely drink the medicine or take the pills straight.

The two ingredients in cough and cold medicine that cause a high or buzz are dextromethorphan andpromethazine-codeine (in cough syrup). Dextromethorphan can produce euphoria or hallucinations when taken at doses higher than recommended. Promethazine-codeine is an antihistamine and codeine combination. The antihistamine in the cough syrup is often used as a sedative, although this medicine can cause euphoria in some individuals and at higher doses.

Dangers of Abusing Cough and Cold Medicines

When cold and cough medicines are abused, dopamine is released in the body and creates a pleasurable sensation that can be addictive. Deaths have been linked to the use of these medicines. Specifically, multiple fatal overdoses have resulted after individuals have abused promethazine-codeine cough syrup. The medicine’s depressant effects on the central nervous system have slowed heart and lung function. Ingredients in medicine like dextromethorphan (when it is abused) causes the same kind of hallucinations that are experienced by people who have taken drugs like ketamine or PCP.

Other side effects of dextromethorphan include:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • High body temperatures
  • High acid levels in the body
  • Impaired mobility
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Agitation

No Drug Is Safe to Abuse

A drug addiction is serious whether it is to heroin or a common cough syrup. A person who repeatedly takes cough or cold medicines to sleep, feel more relaxed or feel more energetic and alive is abusing that medication and putting themselves at risk for addiction.

If you or someone you know is abusing over-the-counter cold medication, seek the help of a professional in addiction and recovery. The best medicine is awareness and treatment. Professionals can help empower users to manage and overcome their reliance on drugs.

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