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Signs your child is abusing over-the-counter medication

1 in 30 teens abuse over-the-counter drugs, nonprofit organization says

DETROIT – Robotripping, Triple C, DXM and skittling are all street terms for the abuse of over-the-counter cough medicine.

"It's extremely dangerous to abuse cough medicine," said Tim Plancon, special agent in charge of the drug enforcement. "It's a big problem especially with younger folks, eighth to 12th grade."

According to the nonprofit Stop Medicine Abuse, as many as one in 30 teens abuse these over-the-counter drugs.

Some cough medicines have dextromethorphan, or DXM, in them to help soothe symptoms.

"Dextromethorphan is a very common ingredient in cough medication," Local 4's Dr. Frank McGeorge said. "Initially, it was described as something that could be used as a cough suppressant, but it turns out in very high doses it can produce some weird hallucinogenic sort of opioid or opiate-type responses ... in fact, at high doses those responses are very unpredictable and it goes from being a little bit high to being very toxic very quickly."

"They're meant to heal you if you're ill and if you abuse them, like anything else, it can prove fatal. It can really hurt you," Plancon said.

There are no restrictions in Michigan on the sale of over-the-counter cough medicines. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said the only over-the-counter products that are regulated contain pseudoephedrine.

Parents should pay attention to their teen's shopping habits and what they keep in their backpack or their room, check the medicine cabinet regularly and notice if cough medicine goes missing when no one in the home is sick. It can also be a red flag if the medicine is found somewhere other than where you keep it.

"If you see abnormal trash like multiple bottles of cough syrup or even one bottle and you know your kid is not sick and if they're taking cough medicine or self-prescribing cough syrup it certainly should be a red flag to a parent," Plancon said.

Plancon said "purple drank" is also making a resurgence. It is codeine cough syrup, and it requires a prescription.   It is often mixed with Sprite or something sweet when it's used to get high.

"If you take enough of any over-the-counter medication in an attempt to get high, if you're one of the unlucky people who do not metabolize it well, it could kill you," McGeorge said.

Plancon worries any abuse of drugs can be a potential gateway to an opioid addictions, such as prescription pain pills and eventually heroin.

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