Substance Abuse

Triple C: When Cold and Cough Medicines Become Dangerous

When a cold creeps up on you and strikes without warning, you don’t want to suffer for long. That is why many of us keep cold and cough medicine on hand. It allows you to speed up our recovery by quickly treating cold and flu symptoms.

What you don’t realize is that box of cold and cough medicine could be used by teens, young adults or pretty much anyone to get high. Take time to learn more about how misuse or abuse of cold and cough medicine could lead to a serious addiction.

How Does Cold and Cough Medicine Cause Addiction?

There are two reasons to take cold medicine: for relief of physical cold and flu symptoms such as fever, aches and stuffy noses or to stop causing. Some cold medicine only treats one or the other either the physical symptoms or the cough, while others treat both. Only one type of cold medicine has the potential to be abused.

Over the counter medications that contain dextromethorphan are the ones that can be abused. Dextromethorphan is commonly used by manufacturers of cold medicine because it works as a cough suppressant. While its intended purpose was to be used as a cough suppressant, dextromethorphan can also be used as a hallucinogenic.

When dextromethorphan is being abused to create a euphoric high or produce hallucinations, it can be highly addictive.

What are Triple C’s: The Street Name for Cold and Cough Medicine That Produces a High or Hallucinations

Those who use cold and cough medicine that contains dextromethorphan to get high or to create hallucinations don’t refer to it as cold medicine or even by its name brand. Instead, they often use the term triple C or CCC.

Other names that are often used interchangeably with triple C include:

  • Skittles – used because many of pills that contain dextromethorphan look like the fruity candy
  • Candy – the pills can also look like other types of candies
  • Red Devils – pills with dextromethorphan often have a very distinctive red color
  • DXM

Examples of Cold and Cough Medicine That Popular Amongst Those Abusing Triple C

Coricidin products are the most common for use as triple c medications. These products come in various forms ranging from round tablets to soft gel pills and liquids.

Some examples of the Coricidin products that are commonly abused include:

  • Coricidin HBP Cough Cold Medicine
  • Coricidin HBP Chest Congestion & Cough
  • Coricidin HBP Maximum Strength Flu

Coricidin HBP Cough Cold Medicine is the most popular amongst those abusing triple C because it has one of the highest doses of dextromethorphan. Coricidin HBP Cough Cold Medicine contains 30 mg of dextromethorphan while the other products contain half that amount. The doses of dextromethorphan in other Coricidin products range from 10 mg to 15.

The higher amount of dextromethorphan in Coricidin HBP Cough Cold Medicine means it is easier, and quicker, to achieve that euphoric high.

While Coricidin products are the ones most commonly associated with triple C, any type of over the counter medications that contain dextromethorphan can be abused.  Robitussin, Mucinex, Delsym, Nyquil and even some Tylenol products contain dextromethorphan and have the potential to be abused.

Triple C Often Taken in Pill Form, but can be Injected or Taken as a Liquid

Triple C is most commonly consumed in pill form because it is the easiest to obtain. It is available at almost any drug store and major retailer across the country. However, it can also come in other forms.

A powder form of triple C can be purchased online. Once purchased, the powder can be dissolved in water and swallowed or it can be turned into a liquid and injected.

Using the powder form of triple C is extremely dangerous because you don’t know its origin. You have no idea if it has been directly pulled from various dextromethorphan DXM products or if it has been mixed with other illegal drugs or harmful ingredients.

The Effects of Triple C: What Happens When Dextromethorphan is Misused or Abused

Dextromethorphan is misused and abused because of its ability to affect a person’s perception and behavior. When taken in large amounts, dextromethorphan will cause a person to experience a euphoric high. This is often referred to as robotripping.

Visual hallucinations, delusions and euphoric are the most common effects of triple C. However, those who misuse or abuse dextromethorphan can also experience other problems. Some other side effects of triple c abuse include:

  • Sudden fluctuations in blood pressure – blood pressure may suddenly and rapidly increase
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Slurred speech or difficulty finding words
  • Spasms caused by difficulty controlling your muscles
  • Stomach pain
  • Changes to your vision such as double vision or blurred vision
  • Nausea and extremely abdominal pain
  • Brain damage – occurs rarely and typically happens only when an individual consumes large doses of dextromethorphan

Will Taking Cold and Cough Medicine Cause Addiction?

There is often a concern that taking cold and cough medicine that contains dextromethorphan can cause addiction. While there is a slight chance this could happen, it is unlikely.

As long as you take the over the counter medications as directed, either by the instructions provided by the manufacturer or from a health care professional, you should not become addiction. In fact, taking these medications as instructions probably won’t even cause you to experience a euphoric high or have any visual hallucinations.

The reason why you won’t become addicted is because it the euphoric feeling, visual hallucinations and altered perception only occur when you take large amounts of dextromethorphan. The amounts you receive when taking the medication as instructed is not enough to produce this type of effect.

Signs of Triple C Addiction

Triple c misuse or abuse is extremely common amongst teenage. However, anyone can abuse or misuse it.

Knowing when someone is abusing triple c can be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. There are very specific and noticeable warning signs that occur when a person is abusing triple c.

Some things that could indicate a person is abusing triple c include:

  • Cold medicine that seems to disappear from the bathroom or storage with no explanation
  • Large amounts of empty boxes of cold medicine around the house or in the trash
  • Amount of cold medicine that is present may decrease – if a person is not taking the whole box, they may slowly take one or two pills at a time. Eventually they will have enough to achieve the euphoric high.
  • Sudden changes in personality
  • Physical symptoms that can include rapid eye movements, extreme drowsiness, dizziness or profuse sweating
  • Seeing or hearing things that are not there
  • Increased paranoia

If you suspect a loved one is abusing triple c, it is important to get them help. The sooner you get them help for their addiction, the less likely they are to experience lasting, long-term damage or health problems from their misuse or abuse of this over the counter medication.

Help for triple c addiction can be found at local rehabilitation centers. These drug treatment programs will help you safely detox so you don’t experience any harmful or uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. These treatment programs can also help you learn valuable coping skills that help you lead a life of sobriety.

Chapman House Behavioral Health Centers can help you connect with local Orange County rehabilitation centers that offer evidence based treatment programs that will help you or a loved overcome their addiction. Contact Chapman House Behavioral Health Centers today and get help for your addiction to triple c before it is too late.


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