When you think of drug abuse, you might think of hardcore drugs like heroin and cocaine, prescription drugs like oxycodone, or club drugs like ecstasy and LSD. However, many people also abuse over-the-counter (OTC) medications that are normally available to the general public. Many OTC drugs contain sedative ingredients that can lead to a relaxing and sleepy high. One of these drugs is known as Triple C.
What Are Triple C’s?
Also known by street names like skittles, red devil, or dex, Triple C refers to an over-the-counter (OTC) medication called Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold. The medication contains dextromethorphan (DXM). DXM is a common ingredient in many cough-and-cold medications.
Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold has been coined Triple C (for obvious reasons), and while the drug isn’t illegal, it can be easily abused because it contains DXM. This ingredient can lead to side effects similar to those of PCP and ketamine when taken in higher than recommended doses. Triple C drug abusers tend to use many times the recommended dose, which can lead to hallucinations and dissociative side effects that can last up to 6 hours.
Additionally, the risks of abusing Triple C are heightened because the medication contains additional ingredients aside from DXM, such as expectorants, pain relievers, and antihistamines. These also produce their side effects, and when combined with DXM and taken in high doses, the result can be undesirable, to say the least.
Who Abuses Triple C?
The recreational use of dextromethorphan-containing medications like Triple C has been a problem since the drug was first marketed as an OTC cough suppressant in the early 1960s. At the time, increasing abuse of Romilar tablets for the mind-altering effects of DXM led to the removal of the formulation from the market.
However, it was replaced by a syrup form, which was generally unpalatable (due to the extreme taste) in large doses and contained other ingredients like guaifenesin, which produce gastrointestinal effects even enough to discourage users from taking higher than the recommended dose.
During a resurgence of DXM abuse in the punk community during the 1980s, Robitussin DM cough syrup and its equivalents were often the preferred substances of abuse. This led to several street drug names for the substance, such as Robo, robocop, and Robo shuffle.
Cough syrups also gained more popularity as drugs of abuse because of the drink called lean or purple drank, which contains cough syrup as well as soda, candy, or sometimes alcohol. The abuse of OTC drugs like Triple C is most common among adolescents, teens, and young adults, as this form of drug use is often glorified in certain music genres and on social media.
Triple C Effects
DXM and its metabolite – dextrorphan – act as potent blockers of a receptor called N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA). At high doses, DXM acts similarly to substances like PCP. Approximately 5% to 10% of people are poor DXM metabolizers, meaning they can’t properly break down the drug. This increases the risk of overdose and death.
According to users, common Triple C effects include:
- Heightened sense of perceptual awareness
- Altered sense of time
- Visual hallucinations
- Slurred speech
- Increased blood pressure
- Liver damage
Many Triple C abusers also mix the drug with alcohol, which can lead to further complications like cardiovascular problems. Combining sedatives or depressants can also lead to an elevated impact on functions like cognition, movement, and breathing, which can have life-threatening consequences.
DXM abuse has been traditionally linked with OTC liquid cough medication abuse. More recently, the abuse of tablets and gel capsules has also increased. DXM powder is often sold over the internet, as well, and may also be sold in illicitly manufactured tablets containing only DXM or DXM combined with other drugs such as ecstasy or methamphetamine.
Help for Drug Abuse and Addiction
Long-term drug abuse can lead to physical dependence and addiction, the latter of which often takes precedence in the user’s life. If you or someone you know is battling substance abuse and needs help, our detox in PA can be the first step in their recovery. Our detox programs flush drugs out of the individual’s system and offer them the space, comfort, and medical support to safely recover from withdrawal symptoms without relapsing.
In addition to detox, our inpatient rehab programs in Pennsylvania also allow clients to live at the facility while they’re being treated so they can recover without distractions or temptations. Our residential rehab center also provides various therapy programs – like cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback – as supplements to clients’ treatment.
- DEA – Dextromethorphan