SPECIAL REPORT: East Texas parents warn others teens getting high on cough medicine

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East Texas officials say parents need to be on high alert after recent incidents in which teenagers are getting high off a cough syrup that can be legally bought online. 

“I always thought I was a very informed parent,” an East Texas mother who wishes to remain anonymous says. “I thought I knew what was out there, but this is something new that I think is becoming a problem.”

An East Texas mother is warning parents of an alarming trend after finding a bag full of small empty plastic bottles in her child’s room.

“I had never heard of DXM before. I Googled it. I found out it was cough medicine. There is something in cough medicine that acts the same as PCP and is a hallucinogen.”

Authorities say East Texas teenagers are using Robocough, a highly concentrated cough syrup, to get high.

“It would be like them buying a large bottle of cough syrup at the store and drinking the entire bottle,” Rusk County Sheriff Jeff Price says. “Now, they can just buy a small bottle, take a couple of gulps and you got the same effect.”

The active ingredient is dextromethorphan, a medication used as a cough suppressant. It can be found in a variety of cough syrups, tablets and lozenges.

Doctors say people have been abusing this medication for years, but what makes Robocough unique is the packaging. At first glance, parents say it looks like an energy drink.

Each bottle of Robocough contains 1.52 fl oz or 15 doses of dextromethorphan.

“He could have told me it was like a 5-Hour Energy and I would’ve believed it,” the unidentified East Texas parent says. 

Dr. Monique Mills, a pediatrician at UT Health East Texas, says drinking one of these bottles can be dangerous and could affect a child’s performance at school.

“Not being able to think, to stay awake, focus and pay attention at school,” Dr. Mills says. “It can affect your ability to drive.”

Symptoms of a cough syrup overdose include: blurred vision, dizziness, hallucinations, and breathing problems.

“If you were using it to suppress your cough, you would take it every six hours as needed,” Dr. Mills says. “If you shot this whole bottle you would be getting 450 mg. It’s four days worth.” 

High amounts of dextromethorphan can be especially dangerous when combined with other basic drugs, such as Tylenol or Advil. It could cause a parent’s worst nightmare.

“For whatever reason, even something as simple as acetaminophen or ibuprofen and working in combination, impairing the metabolism of the drugs or causing the metabolism to be accelerated, even an ounce and a half can lead to death. It can be fatal.”

According to the Robocough website, the only store in East Texas in which the powerful cough suppressant is sold is in Huntington, near Lufkin. However, it can be easily bought online.  

“I was so shocked that this could happen right under your nose,” the unidentified parent said. “He had his own little debit card, and he could check the mail before I got home and leave my mail there.”

Officials say parents should be more aware of their kid’s activities.

“If they have accounts online, you need to monitor those,” Sheriff Price says. “If they’re buying things online you need to monitor what they are buying, and you need to go to their room and look around every once and awhile. 

Ultimately, the unidentified parent says her child is fine, but she wants other parents to be aware of what their children are consuming before it’s too late. 

“I was lucky,” she says. “One of his friends called or I don’t think I would’ve figured it out. Just stay involved and search. “

Each bottle of Robocough starts at $5.99. It is distributed by DXM Pharmaceutical in Katy, TX near Houston.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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