Last year 8,000 people, mostly teens, were treated in emergency rooms because they abused over the counter cough suppressants according to the Food and Drug Administration. That's why the FDA is considering whether to make medicines like Robitussin a prescription drug. We talked with an Avera Counselor about this rising trend and red flags for parents to watch for.
120 cough medicines, over half the products on the store shelves in your local pharmacy, contain Dextromethorphan or DEX for short, a drug that is very appealing to kids because it's easy to get and easy to abuse. A dangerous combination says Counselor Sara Bennetts with Avera Behavioral Health Outpatient Services.
Bennetts says, "It becomes more psychologically addicting. It's new, it's fun, it's different and it seems like it's no big deal because you can go to Wal-Mart and get it, so what's the big deal? It's not alcohol, it's not meth, it's not heroine so why should I be concerned if I'm using it and why should I be concerned if my kids are? Well, it's a drug. There is a reason, a specific use for it, you're not supposed to misuse it, abuse it or overuse it.
Studies suggest kids as young as 12 years old, 6th graders, are starting to experiment with "robo-tripping". Bennetts and an Avera Pharmacist we spoke to say when you think about the chemicals they are introducing to a brain that isn't fully developed until the age of 22/25 you have to wonder what that will do long term.
Eric Kutshcer Pharmacist at Avera Behavioral Health Center says, "That's true, the long term affects are really debatable no one knows for sure. Some say it's like PCP or LSD where it's like almost a burnout of the neurotransmitters and then they could face years of depression, irritable mood swings but it's not documented.
Bennetts says, "Parents know when their child is off It's trusting your gut. It's making sure you are listening to behaviors of your child not just the words they are saying. You have to look at their behaviors and be willing to make your child angry because you are calling them out on something.
Bennetts says it comes down to this; be aware, pay attention and trust your gut. Cough syrup is meant to be taken to suppress a cough. If the bottles in your home suddenly start going empty and no one is sick take action.
A panel of experts advising the FDA has recommended that cough medicine continue to be sold without a prescription. Avera Pharmacist Eric Kutscher suspects it will be sold "behind the counter" like Sudafed products in the near future.