You've probably given your children some to help them stop coughing, but now East Tennessee authorities report our youngsters are going to the medicine cabinet without supervision and abusing cough medicine.
Volunteer TV's Gary Loe reports what every parent needs to know about cough medicine abuse.
A key ingredient in over-the-counter cough medicine is addicting to some who abuse it. Dextromethorphan, or DXM, provides a quick buzz, but can be deadly.
Long's druggist Jim Peck says his store doesn't sell much cough syrup containing DXM, but a metropolitan drug commission project director says children in 6th through 8th grades here are among frequent abusers.
"Unfortunately, is very common in Knoxville and really among our own middle schoolers, our own local treatment facilities have said they've seen numerous cases of this," said Tyra Haag from the Metropolitan Drug Commission.
The problem is DXM is legal, it's cheap, and it's as close as a medicine cabinet.
"It does produce a euphoric-like state, something like marijuana would, almost," Haag said.
"If they go to the grocery store, they can buy the same medication there over-the-counter without a druggist even touching it," Peck said.
The internet is fueling experimentation...Websites now show users how to buy it, and abuse it. A number of home movies posted on youtube glorify DXM abuse. National statistics show one in 11 teenagers have tried it, and last year, two dozen deaths resulted. Drug abuse prevention workers say these symptoms may indicate DXM abuse: Slurred speech, blurred vision, elevated body temperature, dilated pupils, and excessive sweating.
"Taking enough of this can cause brain seizures, psychosis, and overdoses can actually be very fatal," Haag said.
Officials say the best preventative measure is for parents to talk with children about the dangers of drug abuse. The MPC also recommends that adults keep an eye on their cough syrup supply. If the medicine begins disappearing, confront the suspected abuser in a non-judgmental way and seek professional help immediately.