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Professional News
Over-the-Counter Products Becoming Drugs of Choice for Many Teens
Psychiatric News
Volume 43 Number 8 page 9-9

A new analysis of data from a government-conducted survey reveals that 5 percent of young people reported abusing over-the-counter cough medicines over the year preceding the survey.

The cough suppressant dextromethorphan is found in more than 140 cough and cold medicines available without a prescription, and when taken in large amounts dextromethorphan can produce hallucinations or dissociative states similar to those caused by hallucinogens such as PCP.

According to an analysis of the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which is conducted each year by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 3.1 million people aged 12 to 25 (5.3 percent) used cough and cold medication for recreational purposes in their life-times. Almost a million had done so within the prior year.

The number of young people who were estimated to misuse cough and cold medicines in the prior year surpassed the number of those claiming to have tried methamphetamines (740,000) and LSD (485,000) in that year.

The SAMHSA survey is the largest of its kind and is conducted to gather information on drug, alcohol, and tobacco use from a nationally representative sample of about 67,000 people across the United States, including about 45,000 people aged 12 to 25.

According to the findings, girls aged 12 to 17 were more likely than their male counterparts to have misused these cough and cold medications within the prior year (2.3 percent vs. 1.5 percent).

In addition, among all people aged 12 to 25 in the United States, the rate of past-year misuse among whites (2.1 percent) was three times higher than the rate among blacks (0.6 percent) and substantially higher than the rate for Hispanics (1.4 percent).

Of those who said they abused cough and cold medicines, 30.5 percent used a Nyquil product, and about 18 percent used a Coricidin or Robitussin product, according to the report.

"Misuse of Over-the-Counter Cough and Cold Medications Among Persons Aged 12 to 25" is posted at<http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k8/cough/cough.htm>.

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