I never heard of the dangers of cough syrup until I learned that my neighbor was getting high from it. I found out that cough syrup is not only used to suppress coughs, but some people, including teenagers, take large doses of cough syrup to get high. These “syrup heads,” as they are sometimes called, will drink an entire bottle of cough syrup like Robitussin, which is often called “robo-dosing” or “robo-tripping.” Other times people will swallow many cough suppressant pills sometimes called “skittles.” The fact is that since 2000 there has been a four-fold increase in cough suppressant abuse by teenagers, according to poison control experts. A 21-year-old Watsonville resident, who I’ll call Andrea, began taking large doses of cough syrup when she was 16. Her parents were going through a divorce and she thought getting high with cough syrup would make her mind distracted and she would forget about problems at home. “(When I took cough syrup) I felt like I did not have any problems, but then I didn’t know what had happened after I did it.” Whenever Andrea took large doses of cough syrup, she would black out, she said, almost crying. She said that she would never do it again because now she has a baby. “(Cough syrup) was the worst error I’ve ever made in my life.” People have used cough syrup to get high for a long time. In the ’70s cough syrup contained codeine and alcohol and many people, including teenagers, would get a buzz from using more than the recommended dosage. Now most cough syrups no longer contain alcohol. Cough syrup with codeine, an addictive opiate, is only available by prescription. But now more than 125 cough remedies in the United States such as Robitussin and NyQuil contain Dextromethorphan hydrobromide, or DXM. DXM is a synthetic drug that is similar to morphine. When somebody takes large quantities of cough medicine, the first thing they usually do is vomit it up. However, experienced syrup heads will ingest the medicine quickly enough so their bodies will absorb the DXM. Then they might have hallucinations and out of body experiences. Other side effects include nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and headaches. The more serious side effects are depressed breathing, elevated blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, seizures, comas and death. Rich Westphal, a supervisor at the Santa Cruz County Narcotic Enforcement Team, said that he has not had any reports of cough syrup abuse in the Santa Cruz County. But he is aware that teenagers use cough syrup to get high. “For four or five dollars you can get loaded (from cough syrup) and be under the influence for six hours, so it’s fairly, unfortunately inexpensive,” said Westphal. Westphal said that the Druge Enforcement Agency is monitoring abuse of DXM and it could be added to the controlled substance act. Almost all the people in the U.S. have a cough remedy in their house, which is why it is so easy for teens to get access to it. Teens can also buy cough syrup at any drug store, since there are no legal restrictions to buy cough syrup in California so far. However, because of the use of certain cough syrups for methamphetamine production, some states have restricted the amount of cough syrup that can be purchased. The federal government is also considering restricting sales. Although a large dose of cough syrup may give somebody a buzz, it can also kill them. A 22-year-old college student in Ames, Iowa died from DXM overdose in October of 2002, according to an article in USA Today. In most parts of the U.S., parents are becoming more concerned about children who use cough syrup to get high. Some of these parents think the only way out of this problem is to make cough syrup available only with a doctor’s prescription. I disagree with this proposed way of selling medicine because there are many people that cannot go to the doctor because they do not have money. The drug DXM is available without a prescription because, when used properly, it has proven to be a safe and effective. Over the counter drugs are the only ways in which some people cure themselves. But parents need to be aware if cough syrup is missing.