FDA Keeps the Cough Syrup on the Shelf

Courtesy of Flickr user Editor B (CC)

Remember when you couldn’t get your kids to take cough syrup?  These days, they seem to be turning to it … to get high. Kids are stealing cough medicine off the drugstore shelves to get a very untasty high from the key ingredient dextromethorphan (DXM), prompting the Drug Enforcement Administration to ask the Food and Drug Administration to consider scheduling DXM-containing products under the Controlled Substances Act.

Yesterday, an FDA advisory committee voted against letting some bad apples make the rest of us get a prescription or have to sign a pharmacy-counter registry, in an effort to stop coughing when stricken with a cold. According to the National Survey on Drug Abuse, about 3.1 million young people aged 12-25 (5.3%) had ever used an OTC cough and cold medication to get high and nearly 1 million (1.7%) had done so in the past year.

Many panel members expressed concern that it is unclear how state law would play into access to the proposed schedule V status for DXM. While schedule V is the least restrictive category under the federal Controlled Substances Act, individual states could opt to require a prescription or pharmacy registries for these drugs—significantly limiting legitimate access to DXM-containing medications.

The recommended therapeutic adult dose of DXM is 10-30 mg every 4-8 hours.  Based on a quick YouTube search, a 4-oz bottle of Robitussin—hence the street term robotripping—seems to be the favored dosage for the average teen. Not that I participate in or condone substance abuse, but cough syrup seems like an unpleasant way to go about it…starting with taste.

Courtesy of Flickr user sniggitysnags (CC)

Humans have likely been looking to get high since, well, since before we were human. This made me wonder what other weird things have been used in the quest for a high…and this sounded like a job for the kids’ other favorite mind-altering substance, the Internet.

In no particular order, the Internet says that you can get high from nutmeg, inhalants (spray paint, nail polish remover, lighter fluid, glue, marking pens, etc.), digital drugs (“i-dosing” off of droning mp3 files), and choking.

Of course, just because the Internet says you *can* doesn’t mean you should.

—Kerri Wachter, @knwachter on Twitter

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1 Comment

Filed under Drug And Device Safety, Family Medicine, IMNG, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Primary care

One response to “FDA Keeps the Cough Syrup on the Shelf

  1. Monica P.

    Wouldn’t it be amazing if kids discovered how to get high on life by volunteering, exercising, setting goals .. etc.

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