Reviewed by Michael Smith on June 14, 2012
CHPA and CADCA: "A Dose of Prevention: Combating Medicine Abuse in Your Community." MedicineNet web site: "Teen Deaths May Be from DXM in Cough Medicines. "Partnership for a Drug-Free America web site: "The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS): Teens 2008 Report." Make Up Your Own Mind about Cough Medicine web site (Partnership for a Drug-Free America): "Could a person really die from taking too much cough medicine?"
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Narrator: Meet Brendan. He's 16 and a recovering drug addict. He's showing us how easily students can score a highly popular drug during school hours.
Brendan: And we can just do it any time of the day, even go during lunch because no one knows when you are at lunch.
Steven Brendan's Dad: You go to the RaceTrac or to CITGO or the Handy Mart and there it's sitting right there on the shelf and you just look around and make sure the cameras aren't on you, slipping it in your pocket, take off and guzzle it down during school.
Brendan: You can just say, "Hey, can I go to the bathroom?" You go in the bathroom (butt) You take 20 pills of DXM. You just go back to class.
Narrator: And you would do that?
Brendan: DXM, yeah, it was a really a popular school drug. All my friends were always strung out on it.
Narrator: Look familiar? DXM or Dextromethorphan is the active ingredient in most cough medicines. One in ten teenagers say they have used DXM to get high, making it more popular for teens than LSD, cocaine, ecstasy or meth.
Tricia Brendan's Mom: They don't think there is anything wrong with it actually. It's available. My mom has it at home. We have taken that as a kid. What is wrong with a little bit more? There were liquid cough medicines in this house, asthma, allergies. Older teens had it for for those reasons. There were always pills available. They were not locked up.
Brendan: I would go into the kitchen where my mom kept it, just open the medicine cupboard and just grab the whole bottle. No one really suspects anything even if there are people around. It would be like, "Oh yeah he needs some cough medicine" but I didn't plan on taking the normal dose. I wanted to go all the way. Like they didn't know I was going to use such a common item just to get high.
Narrator: Brendan started experimenting at 13 and would use the internet to feed his knowledge…
Brendan: Well YouTube, if you want to see like a visual representation of what the drug would be like, like for hallucinogens like what your body motions would be like, what your thoughts are. It's a good site for that..
Narrator: While Facebook has become the new street corner dealer.
Brendan: Hey man! I need two bottles of Tuss.
Narrator: Tuss is one of the slang terms for DXM, along with skittles, rojo and triple C's.
Brendan: They pick fights alot.
Narrator: Like many kids who experiment, Brendan's drug use escalated until he was caught and sent to rehab.
Tricia Brendan's Mom: He has 70% chance about of relapse. He could be one of the 30% that make it without ever again having a problem. But he is very aware that he has to be on a look out for that for the rest of his life.
Steven Brendan's Dad: And it's not a drug that you can do a dipstick urine test on your kid and find it. It has to have a specific blood test in order to find out if they are using Dextromethorphan.
Tricia Brendan's Mom: I have learned to lock everything up, any pain-relievers, anti-inflammatory, any cough-and-cold medicine. If you need any type of medicine in my house that is over-the-counter that you can walk in a drug store and buy, it is all locked up and no one has the key, but me.
Steven Brendan's Dad: You need to have a high index suspicion even with the perfect child. I would say it is as important to lock up DXM as it is to lock up the lie that you would use as a drain-opener We had no clue, absolutely no clue.
Narrator: For WebMD, I'm Sandee LaMotte