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When taken as directed, cough and cold medications are generally safe. However, sometimes people (primarily teens and young adults) abuse cold and cough medicines.

Cough suppressants that are found in many cough and cold medications are sometimes abused. Dextromethorphan, also called “Dex,” is a common agent used by high school students. Slang words associated with these products include “Skittles,” “Triple C’s,” and “Robotrips.”

Antihistamines, which are also often found in cold medications, may also be taken in excess either accidentally or intentionally. These products may be used because they are easy to get and inexpensive, and some adults may not be aware that they can be abused.

When cough and cold medications are taken in larger doses, serious symptoms may occur.

Symptoms may include:

  • rapid heart beat
  • high or low blood pressure
  • drowsiness
  • confusion
  • hallucinations
  • seizures

Parents should be aware that street drugs aren’t the only drugs that can be abused. Over-the-counter medications, including cough and cold medications, can be abused as well.


Call NC Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 or chat from this site for more information.

Last Updated on 12/17/2019