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Default 03-04-2004, 07:19 PM

DEA Investigates Cold Medicine Abuse

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Many young kids are abusing over-the-counter cough medication in a drug abuse trend known as "skittling."

KMBC's Maria Antonia looked into the problem that can prove dangerous or, in some cases, fatal.

Over-the-counter cough pills have a drug in them called dextromethorphan. In large doses, DXM can cause hallucinations. So some kids have been taking an overdose of the pills in an effort to get high.

"I have a few friends say they did it," said Logan, a 14-year-old Desoto, Kan., boy. "So, I decided I would try and do it. Pretty soon, I was hooked on it."

Logan said getting high on DXM is "like you're outside of your body -- like you're looking in at yourself kind of."

Lisa Oller, a poison control specialist, said her organization is receiving more calls about DXM from local schools.

"We should be alarmed," Oller said.

Debbie Richmond agrees. She is a local pharmacist who feels skittling is becoming more common and harder to control. At Richmond's pharmacy, cough medicine with DXM now sits behind the counter.

Beverly Larkin, a local addiction counselor, said the abuse of DXM "is rampant in the high schools."

"I'm seeing more younger kids, like in the seventh and eighth grades doing it," she said.

Those who abuse the cold pills can suffer other toxic side effects due to other ingredients used in the pills. Larkin said one local 16-year-old was hospitalized with blood coming from his nose and ears after abusing DXM. The pain killer acetaminophen, often found in cold medicine, can cause severe liver damage when taken in high doses. In rare cases, kids have died from trying to get high off DXM.

Some DXM abusers prefer cough syrup, such as Robitussin, to the pills, but the effects and dangers are the same. Any drug with a name that includes "DM" or "Tuss" contains DXM.

The Drug Enforcement Agency is currently collecting information on how prevalent DXM abuse is and whether tighter controls are needed.

Logan stopped abusing the drug a few months ago, and hopes to stop others by talking about its dangers.

Read Complete Story HERE
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