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Teen abuse of cough medicines soars
San Francisco Chronicle


December 12, 2006
Tuesday AM

Abuse of common cough medications by teens has grown spectacularly in recent years, according to researchers, who found a 15-fold increase in calls to poison control centers since 1999 for teens made sick by overdosing on household drugs that can cause hallucinogenic highs.


The ingredient sought in the over-the-counter medications is dextromethorphan, or DXM, which comes in a wide variety of pills and syrups that researchers say are promoted by Web sites telling users how to take them recreationally.

In the teenage subculture of DXM abuse, the most common drug of choice is Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold tablets, which were implicated in two-thirds of the 1,382 calls to the California Poison Control System reviewed in the study.

Kids call it CCC, Triple-C, or Skittles, because the red pills resemble the fruit-flavored candy of the same name. They've dubbed the hallucinatory experience "Skittling" or "robo-tripping" - an allusion to another common cough medicine, Robitussin, which contains it.

"Many teenagers already know about it, but their parents may not know about it," said Ilene Anderson, a professor at the University of California-San Francisco School of Pharmacy and senior toxicologist for the California Poison Control System.

"It's extremely easy to fool your parents, because this is not a white powder found in a baggy. It's a product found in the medicine cabinet of almost any home."

Taken in sufficient quantities, the drug can cause hallucinations similar to those who abuse the illegal drug PCP or the prescription anesthetic ketamine.

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