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Cough Syrup More Abused by Youth Than Meth

By January 29, 2008

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Although it can cause life-threatening adverse reactions, more than 3.1 million young people in the United States have used over-the-counter (non-prescription) cough and cold medicines to get high at least once in their lifetimes. At least 1 million of those aged 12 to 25 have purposely overdosed on non-prescription cough and cold medications in the past 12 months.

The report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration analyzed data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The study revealed that the number of young people abusing cough and cold medications is comparable to those who say they have used LSD (3.1 million), and is significantly greater than the number who reported having tried methamphetamine (2.4 million).

The study also showed that white youths were three times more likely as black youths to have misused these non-prescription drugs.

Abuse Varies by Gender, Age Group

Other findings of the study included:

  • Females aged 12 to 17 were more likely than their male counterparts to have misused these drugs within the past year (2.3 percent vs. 1.5 percent).

  • Of those aged 18 to 25, however, more males had misused these drugs in the past year than females (1.8 percent vs. 1.3 percent).

  • Among all persons aged 12 to 25, the rate of past year misuse among whites (2.1 percent) was three times higher than among blacks (0.6 percent) and significantly higher than among Hispanics (1.4 percent).

Overdosing on over-the-counter cough and cold medications can cause blurred vision, loss of physical coordination, intense abdominal pain, vomiting, uncontrolled violent muscle spasms, irregular heartbeat, delirium and death.

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Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. New Study Reveals More Than 3 Million Adolescents and Young Adults Have Used Non-Prescription Cough and Cold Medicines to Get High at Least Once in Their Lifetimes Jan. 11, 2008.

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