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Columns : Robbin's Nest - Robbin Whachell Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

Parental Alert: Cough Syrup
By Robbin Whachell, Editor, The Bahamas Weekly
Sep 23, 2011 - 12:46:01 AM

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As I was going through my house, packing for our upcoming exodus from our home of 8 years, I came across a guitar case in a place I did not expect... it was in my laundry area hanging behind other items.

Memories flooded back of that time.  The day my daughter came out into the main area of our home and threw the guitar case into the middle of our lives... where her pain already was showing itself, mixed in with ours...
The guitar, partially zipped open and full, had a gaping view revealing a myriad of empty cough syrup bottles and empy boxes of cough syrup pills. ..she was only fifteen years old.

The contents therein did not surprise me, but the amount did! We already knew, and she had recently acknowledged her addiction; we were fighting for her life. In that one moment she'd taken the bold and blunt step to throw her condition into our faces right after arguing with us that she did not have any such addiction. I knew right there and then it was my daughter's cry for help, and I knew that no matter what, I would not stop until we resolved the situation.

What do we think when we see a drug addict on TV or in the streets? We may assume that they are beneath us, that they have little support, little income, but most of the time these people are just like you and me.  Many are capable of leading a 'normal' life  just like you and I, and they usually have money, or at least have parents that do. So what is the problem? I do not know... I only know of what I experienced. That being my daughter was altered after the divorce of her parents - trying to cope with her once surreal 'perfect life' now gone. We lost her, amongst  her own fears and sorrows which projected 'as real' to her.

I could tell you stories of that time that could possible startle or shock you, but the  long and short of it is that my daughter was addicted to cough syrup - yup, good old Vicks, Triaminic, Robitussin and such. Where did she get this idea? Well she is one smart girl, which is a good thing overall. She has always been a seeker of knowledge, and that is how she found out about it. She found information online, actually a forum (forums were big back then) and on this particular forum she had to write an essay to be accepted into it - many members were adults, even 'doctors' she later boasted.

My daughter gained acceptance to the forum and behind her closed bedroom door she began experimenting with cough syrup, which contains a derivative of speed. Not only that, but she also read and learned about a natural drug, nutmeg. Apparently if you grind it and ingest it, you will get high.  All this she began photo documenting as part of her membership on this forum. At one time, a member even died, and it was being discussed in our household and on the forum.

I want to thank Nina Laing from The Freeport News (
Teens concocting a deadly mixture) who sparked my interest to finally write this, as I've wanted to ever since that time. I go into drug stores and see the liquid (slang name, Purple Drank or Sizzurp) at waist height... so accessible to to fast hands even if someone doesn't have the money to purchase it. Parents and store owners everywhere need to know about this drug which has gained popularity, because anyone can go purchase it, and hence why it's called a 'legal drug'.

My daughter, who gave me the okay to write this, made it through that time, and she's now a vibrant young adult in college working hard at her future. But she lost almost 2 years of her life due to this toxic mix. She has little memory of the things that took place then, which may be a good thing. She lost weight, she slept for hours and hours after being up on a high for often 2 full days... She slept in the day, and was awake most nights. During the worst she said such things I had no idea where she could have the knowledge or verbiage to say, and I am not talking about swearwords either.

Unfortunately in The Bahamas there was little support on Grand Bahama Island for drug addiction at that time. My friend in Nassau took her in for a couple weeks so she could see well-known psychologist Dr. David Allen. He reported that she was very smart  and had nothing wrong her with her other than her like for experimentation. He said she was actually extremely bright and talented - this I already knew!

I am glad to have my daughter back. When she was gone, she was gone. Her eyes and spirit were empty when she was high on cough syrup. It was like losing a child. We were lucky to win the battle and I urge all parents to be wary of this. Talk to store owners who carry these items openly on the aisles, and store owners please be wary of young people buying cough medicines in your establishment.

I am a lucky parent. My daughter survived, but I read countless stories online where many parents lost their children as they went on to harder street drugs, and they could no longer allow their child's abusive behaviour in their homes, so they subsequently lost them altogether.

Here is some information on Cough Syrup found online at EGetGoing.com:

Cough Preparations

Many cough preparations, especially cough suppressants, contain codeine or DXM (Dextromethorphan). Codeine and other opiates are very effective cough suppressants, but they are addictive. DXM, a powerful psychoactive drug, is particularly addictive. Cough syrup abusers can obtain the drug from their doctors by complaining about coughs and other cold symptoms. Ingredients in many cough preparations are considered to be dangerous in combination with other drugs, particularly antidepressants (including SSRI medications and MAO Inhibitors), antihistamine allergy medications, and Yohimbe.

Addicts commonly point to three reasons for using cough syrup:

    It's legal (and therefore more acceptable)
    It's low-cost or free
    It's seen as being safer than other drugs of abuse.

Methods of Use

Some addicts drink cough syrup undiluted or mixed with sodas. Others soak marijuana joints with the syrup. In some cities, an underground black market has developed for selling syrup. DXM can also be extracted from cough preparations and taken orally, injected, and occasionally freebased.


Examples of cough preparations include Drixoral Cough Liquid Caps, Robitussin AC, Dectuss, Phenergan with Codeine, Phensedyl, and Pherazine with Codeine.

Effects on the Central Nervous System

DXM exhibits cough-suppressant functions by activating specific opioid receptors (sigma opioid receptors) in the central nervous system. In this sense, DXM functions like Ketamine or PCP. The sigma opioid receptor has been implicated in many of the symptoms of schizophrenia. DXM also affects receptors in the part of the brain called the cerebellum, which plays a role in coordinating movement. The involvement of cerebellum receptors may account for reports of peculiar reactions to movement among persons abusing cough syrup.


Cough syrup abusers use the drug to obtain a marijuana-like high with occasional auditory hallucinations and pleasurable reactions to movement. Other less desirable effects depend on the dose taken:

    Dilated pupils
    High blood pressure
    Hot and cold flashes
    Impaired judgment
    Memory disturbances
    Nausea and other gastric disturbances
    Panic attacks
    Psychotic episodes
    Sexual dysfunction
    Tachycardia (increased heart rate)

Life Risks

Aside from the risk of addiction, cough syrup use is associated with increased fatigue, poor coordination, constipation, urinary retention, and other problems. Overdose deaths have been reported. As mentioned above, DXM may be particularly dangerous in combination with other medications or substances, including:

    "Non-drowsy" antihistamines (allergy medications) such as Claritin, Seldane, or Hismina
    MAO inhibitors (a certain class of anti-depressant)
    SSRI antidepressants, such as Desyrel or Serzone
    The herb Yohimbe / yohimbine

Any of these substances in the system at the same time as DXM can be fatal!


Withdrawal from cough syrups can cause a range of unpleasant and dangerous symptoms, depending on the content dosage of the preparation. DXM withdrawal is characterized by depression and difficulties with thinking and memory.

Warning Signs

A person who is addicted to cough preparations may:

    - Frequently purchase over-the-counter cough preparations
   -  Buy cough preparations at different stores

About the author: Robbin Whachell is a publicist, writer, photo-journalist; and co-founder/ editor of one of The Bahamas' leading news sites, TheBahamasWeekly.com. Ms. Whachell is a successful entrepreneur and pioneer in online marketing. Aside from being a recognized media personality and community builder, she is known for her networking and social media skills, and has a background in information management and film.She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Skype. Reach Robbin by email at Editor@thebahamasweekly.com

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