Medicines prescribed for cough and cold are a major source of potential recreational drug abuse. This category of prescription drugs contains expectorants and antihistamines, which are dangerous if consumed in high quantity. Cough and cold medicines are available in the form of tablets or syrup, which can be mixed with soda to enhance flavor. Moreover, when these drugs are combined with alcohol and marijuana they have a potential addiction capability.
Easy availability of these over-the-counter drugs is generally misused, leading to prescription drug abuse. The music community has been infamous for consuming promethazine-codeine cough syrup mixed with soda, called “purple drank”. Celebrities who consume these performance enhancers often influence young aspirers to adopt this habit to gain a euphoric moment during performance.
Effects of cough and cold medicines
On being struck by flu or seasonal allergies, we take 10-29 mg cough and cold medicines, as prescribed to us by health practitioners, every four hours. However, if these medicines are taken in excess, say a dose of 250-1,500 mg, our brain will work in ways quite similar to under the influence of illegal drugs. These drugs may result in flooding of dopamine, a neurotransmitter present in brain that regulates our body movements and emotions. This pleasurable increase in dopamine levels leads the body toward chronic relapsing. It is the condition where the brain is unable to stop a person from consuming a drug, despite knowing its dangerous consequences.
Although one may feel a temporary high after consuming these medications, their frequent use may impair brain functioning over a longer period, showing visible symptoms such as nausea, numbness, increased heart rate, agitation, and even hypoxic brain damage in severe cases.
DrugFacts divides the consumption procedure into four phases of intoxication. The first phase shows mild dizziness that is similar to drunkenness, while the second is accompanied with hallucinations and slurred speech. The third phase causes unconsciousness with impairment of other senses and in the fourth phase the body loses contact with all senses.
Prescription drug abuse facts
With the rise of prescription drug abuse to unprecedented levels, a number of patients are required to seek professional help to recover from this condition. As these drugs are easily available and are relatively cheaper than alcohol and illegal drugs, young people use it with alcohol while binge drinking. After consuming high doses regularly, one may lack of self-control and unable to resist intense impulses to take drugs.
A report by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has revealed that the percentage of misusers of prescription drugs significantly increased for those aged 12-17 from 2.2 in 2013 to 2.6 in 2014. Abusing these drugs can have ill effects on teens as they are still in a growing stage. Children who frequently use high doses of prescription drugs are at an increased risk of academic failure, and even dropout. Abuse of cough syrup may also lead to teen suicide.
Cold and cough medication abuse has the potential to become an epidemic. Moreover, tracking it is really difficult as such medicines are sold in all pharmacies. At times, teens quickly overdose through experimentation due to lack of awareness about the potential harm that these drugs can do. This problem can be resolved only when each parent in the United States is made aware of the drastic effects the addiction to cold and cough medication can have.