The public could soon see increased regulations on over-the-counter cough medicines as federal health regulators look to curb the abuse of popular cold remedies.
The Food and Drug Administration posted its review of dextromethorphan last Tuesday, revealing the grave side effects the widely-used cough suppressant can have when consumed in mass quantities.
Elizabeth Funderbunk, spokeswoman for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), said her organization has been working since 2003 to curb abuse of over-the-counter cough medicines.
Working closely with The Partnership for a Drug Free America, Funderbunk said the CHPA represents manufacturers of over-the-counter cough medicines like NyQuil and Robitussin to stop abuse of their products.
“The leading makers of over-the-counter medicines never want their products abused,” Funderbunk said. “We have to address the attitude of teens who feel that over-the-counter and prescription drugs are safer.”
Funderbunk said the CHPA is taking aim at over-the-counter cough medicines, not prescription cough medicines, which have been made popular in the rap world with concoctions such as “purple drank,” which contains the prescription suppressant Codeine.
Only 5 percent of teenagers reported abusing over-the-counter cough medicines in the last year, according to Funderbunk, a number that has remained steady for years.
Similarly, Sgt. Squance of the Oxford Police Department has not witnessed a spike in the number of teens abusing cough medicines.
“We get information when there’s a new trend,” Squance said. “We haven’t really seen an issue with over-the counter cough medicines.”
However, Funderbunk said the real problems occur when cough medicines are mixed with other substances like alcohol and prescription medication, which can intensify health consequences.
When taken in high doses, cough medicines can cause increased blood pressure, heart rate and fever, according to Funderbunk.
Furthermore, additional ingredients like acetaminophen can cause severe liver damage when taken in large quantities.
Miami University junior Sarah Breedlove recalled hearing about students abusing over-the-counter cough medicines in high school.
“I remember how big of an issue it was,” Breedlove said. “Students were taking well over the recommended dose and getting noticeably high.”
While Breedlove remembered cough medicine being an issue in high school, she said she has not seen similar abuse since coming to college.
“I have seen students abuse prescription drugs like Adderall, but not cough medicine,” Breedlove said.
Squance also said he has seen more abuse of prescription medications than over-the-counter cough medicines, something he attributed to adequate regulation by local pharmacies.
However, Funderbunk said she and her organization will continue to focus on over-the-counter cough medicines.
“We are committed to continuing our efforts as long as there are problems with abuse,” Funderbunk said. “Our goal is (to) stop abuse while allowing availability.”
For more information on cough medicine and other consumer products, visit http://www.chpa-info.org/