According to law enforcement data, DXM abuse occurs in small pockets. As one teenager discovers cold medicine's potential for abuse, most likely from the Internet, he or she spreads the word to friends and fellow students. In 2003, for example, Collier County, Florida, witnessed an outbreak of DXM abuse. In September, a thirteen-year-old girl brought Coricidin Cough and Cold medicine to her middle school. She gave five tablets each to six friends; three had to be hospitalized later that day. In November, a high school boy distributed Coricidin Cough and Cold pills to three girls. One of them had to be flown to a hospital.
Abuse isn't limited to one area of the country or continent, because information about abuse is usually spread over the Internet. Anyone in the world with Internet access can learn about DXM. Besides in the United States and Canada, abuse of DXM has been reported in countries such as Germany, Sweden, and Australia.
The extent to which DXM is abused is a complicated situation. The same reasons that people choose to abuse DXM can also be the same reasons that others choose not to. The fact that cough medicines and other OTC drugs are so familiar turns some people off from using them to get high. They don't view drinking an entire bottle of cough syrup, something they may take occasionally anyway for medicinal purposes, as appealing. Other people are skeptical as to whether they really can get high off of DXM. Abusing and getting high off familiar medicinal drugs is not a concept that all people are willing to accept.
Since DXM abuse has not generally been mentioned in school or in advertising, people who are not aware of the problem remain unaware. This is harmful for those who choose to abuse DXM without knowing the consequences, but it also helps to keep in check the basic knowledge that cough medicines can in fact be abused. If teenagers don't know that they can get high off of cough medicines, pain relievers, and allergy medications, they aren't likely to open up the medicine cabinet and abuse them.
Another important reason that DXM abuse is not more widespread is that not everyone who tries to get high off it enjoys it. Many people who do try remember it as a bad experience that isn't worth repeating. They find that the negative effects of DXM, such as nausea, headaches, and itching, are a disincentive to continue to use cough products to get high. Other people are frightened
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by extreme hallucinations, which can include hallucinations of death. Information gathered from abusers' experiences suggests that only about one-third who try to get high off DXM actually enjoy it.
Continue reading here: Recognizing DXM Abuse
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