Cough syrup: drug of choice for teens

January 9, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
There's a much more common threat to health and safety to think about tonight.

A new government study shows three million young people, between 12 and 25, are getting high from cough syrup. It contains a drug that young people are trying just as often as methamphetamine.

Justin Fossett says you can hear about the abuse of cough syrup in the lyrics of other rappers.

"I know the rapper "Lil Wayne" uses it. He says 'I got that scully with that Robitussin. He's talking about some other drugs, maybe pills or something, and along with his drink," said Berkeley High School student Justin Fossett.

The drug dextromethorphan or dmx, can be found in more than 140 cough and cold medications, and anyone, any age, can buy it.

A study by the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says people as young as 12-years-old, are abusing it for its hallucinogenic affects.

"My Space. On My Space I see a lot of pictures of people like holding up Robitussin bottles and their eyes will be like really little," said Berkeley High School student Jhamaria McCrary.

One rock group named its entire CD "Robotripping." The recent study says white Americans are abusing cough syrup at a rate three times faster than blacks, and twice as fast as Latinos.

"I've heard of people lacing their blunts or joints with cough syrup, and they call it leaning," said Berkeley High School student Geoffrey Mahley.

The reason why it's so popular, students tell us, is simple: easy access.

And that's why State Senator Joe Simitian, has tried and failed twice to outlaw the sale of cough syrup to minors.

"We had strong opposition from grocers, retailers, drug manufactures. Rite Aid and 7-11 were particularly strong in their opposition. We've lost young lives unnecessarily. In my home town, in a single year or two, we had a kid with a mild heart attack and another with a seizure. Some doctors report seeing as many as 30 kids in a single year," said State Senator Joe Simitian (D) Palo Alto.

Simitian believes his bills failed both times because of a lack of awareness. But now he hopes this latest study will alert legislators about the growing trend, and he's encouraged to give it another try.