Over-the-counter medications abused by teenagers

Courtesy of the 86th Mission Support Group

Dextromethorphan, or DXM, an ingredient in more than 140 cough and cold medications, is a safe and highly effective cough suppressant; however, when ingested in excessive amounts, DXM produces physiological effects that include hallucinations, feelings of detachment from surroundings and self, loss of motor control, drowsiness, rapid heartbeat and vomiting.

The significance of over-the-counter medication abuse has been highlighted locally through recent incidents where adolescents were found to have consumed large amounts of over-the-counter medication containing DXM.
Risks to abusers are increased because medications that contain DXM also have expectorants, pain relievers and antihistamines.

Overdoses of these ingredients can produce additional side effects, such as liver damage, coma and death.


With prolonged abuse, users may become paranoid, delusional and psychotic. These effects can remain weeks after the discontinuation of the medication.

Parents and guardians need to play an active role in stemming this health risk. Adolescents are the primary abusers of over-the-counter medications because the medications are inexpensive, relatively easy to obtain and are perceived to carry few risks.

For more information, contact your school’s Adolescent Substance Abuse Counseling Service or visit websites such as www.kidshealth.org, www.drugfree.org or http://green.rms.kdso.eportalnow.net.

Unused or expired medication can be disposed of at the Ramstein Clinic Pharmacy during normal duty hours from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, or in the Outpatient Pharmacy at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.