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
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>.▪