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What are Triple C’s and Are They Dangerous?

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What are Triple C's?
Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mohsin Ali, MD

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mohsin Ali, MD

Dr. Mohsin Ali MD is board certified in Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Trained in Syracuse NY, he has worked in Tennessee for the last sixteen years.

Table of Contents

Coricidin Cough & Cold, commonly referred to as “Triple C’s,” is an over-the-counter medication increasingly misused by teenagers and young adults. Its widespread availability in homes makes it a prime target for abuse.

The primary ingredient, DXM (dextromethorphan), is categorized under morphinans, noted for their dissociative, sedative, and stimulant properties. Consuming DXM in excessive amounts can induce hallucinations and a dissociative state known as “robotripping.”

The lack of federal regulation on DXM-containing products means the issue of Triple C misuse remains largely unchecked.

Triple C is readily accessible for purchase in bulk online and at major retailers, including Amazon and Walmart, posing a significant risk to susceptible individuals. With some variants containing as much as 10mg of DXM per tablet, the potential for abuse is high. Despite restrictions in 15 states on the sale of DXM to minors by 2020, access to Triple C and its equivalents remains largely unrestricted in many areas. The drug is also known by various street names such as Dex, DXM, Skittles, and Robo, encompassing a range of brands beyond Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold.

Awareness of Triple C’s impact and its accessibility is vital in preventing abuse and protecting at-risk individuals from potential harm.

What Are Triple C’s?

Triple C’s, colloquially known as skittles, red devil, or dex, refers to Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold, an easily accessible over-the-counter medication. This product is formulated with dextromethorphan (DXM), a common ingredient in many cough and cold treatments.

Legally available, Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold’s appeal for misuse stems from its DXM content, capable of inducing effects similar to PCP and ketamine when consumed in large doses. Those abusing Triple C often take significantly more than the advised amount, chasing hallucinogenic and dissociative highs that can persist for up to six hours.

The risks associated with Triple C misuse are amplified by its additional ingredients, such as expectorants, analgesics, and antihistamines. Combined with high doses of DXM, these components can lead to dangerous, sometimes lethal, reactions.

Who Abuses Triple C Drug?

The abuse of Triple C has been an issue since these products first became available over-the-counter in the 1960s. Initially, the abuse of Romilar tablets for their psychoactive effects prompted their removal from the market, replaced by syrup forms that included ingredients to discourage excessive consumption, like guaifenesin.

In the 1980s, the punk scene witnessed a revival in the popularity of DXM through the misuse of Robitussin DM and its equivalents, which were referred to by street names such as Robo, robocop, and the Robo shuffle.

The use of cough syrups as recreational drugs further expanded with the concoction known as ‘lean‘ or ‘purple drank‘, which combines cough syrup with soda, candy, or alcohol. Currently, the misuse of over-the-counter drugs like Triple C is most prevalent among adolescents, teenagers, and young adults, often glamorized in certain music and through social media.

Effects of Triple C’s

The impact of Triple C varies widely depending on the dose. While therapeutic doses typically do not cause adverse effects, misuse at high doses can lead to significant physical and psychological effects.

Common Effects of Triple C Abuse

  • Excitability or hyperactivity
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Uncontrolled eye movements
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Excessive sweating
  • Difficulty speaking clearly
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Clumsiness or unsteady movement

High-Dose Effects of Triple C’s

Abusing Triple C in large quantities can lead to more intense experiences, including:

  • A strong sense of happiness or euphoria
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
  • These high-dose experiences are often sought by individuals engaging in “robo-tripping” or “dexing.”

Serious Health Risks of Triple C

In some cases, especially with pre-existing health conditions or extremely high doses, users might face grave health risks, such as:

  • Falling into a coma
  • Experiencing seizures
  • Developing dangerously high blood pressure
  • Undergoing psychotic episodes
  • Suffering from breathing difficulties or stopping breathing
  • Encountering serotonin syndrome, a critical and potentially fatal condition

Understanding the wide range of effects caused by Triple C misuse is crucial for recognizing signs of abuse and the potential need for medical intervention.

The Risk of Triple Cs Addiction

While not typically associated with traditional forms of addiction, the misuse of Triple Cs, an over-the-counter cough medicine, can lead to dependency issues, particularly when taken in large doses for extended periods. Dextromethorphan (DXM), the active component, can cause users to develop a tolerance, necessitating larger amounts to achieve the desired high. This misuse can escalate to physical dependence. Withdrawal symptoms from Triple Cs can include both physical and mental challenges, such as:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and severe gastrointestinal distress
  • Muscular discomfort and cramps
  • Restlessness and sleep disturbances
  • An increase in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Experience of cold sweats and tremors
  • Feelings of anxiety, mood swings, and depression
  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Mental confusion and difficulty in thinking clearly
  • In rare instances, experiencing hallucinations or delusions

These symptoms underscore the need for a structured recovery plan, particularly for young adults and teenagers trying to escape the cycle of abuse.

Triple C Drug Addiction Chattanooga, TN

Signs of Triple C Addiction

Triple C abuse is a concern across various age groups, with a notable prevalence among teenagers. Being vigilant for signs of misuse is key to providing timely help. Signs that someone may be struggling with Triple C addiction include:

  • Unusual decrease in over-the-counter cold medications at home
  • Discovery of empty medication packaging in personal spaces or trash bins
  • A noticeable reduction in the stock of cold medications, suggesting incremental use for non-medical purposes
  • Behavioral changes, including mood swings or personality shifts
  • Physical indicators such as irregular eye movements, excessive drowsiness, dizziness, or sweating
  • Reports of seeing or hearing things that aren’t present
  • An increase in suspicious or paranoid behavior

Early intervention can mitigate the adverse health impacts linked to chronic misuse of Triple C, facilitating a path towards recovery.

Is Your Teen Using Triple C Drug?

Identifying drug use in teens can be complex, yet there are signs that might suggest the presence of substance abuse, including Triple C. Watch for these signs:

  • Altered behavior and routines
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Excessive sleepiness or lack of responsiveness
  • Slurred speech or seeming intoxicated
  • Unsteady movement or poor coordination
  • Unexplained disappearance of money, valuables, or medications
  • Declining performance in school, work, or home responsibilities
  • Sudden mood changes, irritability, or aggression
  • Disinterest in previously enjoyed activities

These signs could point to various issues, not solely drug use. If you notice these behaviors in your child, it’s wise to consider speaking with a professional therapist or counselor, regardless of drug use evidence.

Engaging in an open conversation with your teen is crucial. While they might not be forthcoming initially, expressing your concern, offering your support, and emphasizing your desire for their well-being are vital steps. In some cases, a specialized drug addiction treatment program, particularly one tailored for teens, may be necessary.

For more guidance on addressing suspected Triple C misuse and exploring treatment options for teens, Iris Wellness Group is here to assist. Reach out to our advisors today for support tailored to your family’s needs and learn more about our teen Triple C drug treatment program in Chattanooga, TN.

How Long Does Triple C Stay in Your System?

Triple C begins to take effect within 15 to 30 minutes of ingestion, with the experience lasting about 3 to 6 hours. Yet, its primary component, dextromethorphan (DXM), remains in the bloodstream for a longer duration. For fast metabolizers, DXM could be detected for 11 to 22 hours post-ingestion. In contrast, for those with slower metabolic rates, it could linger for as much as 33 hours.

Can Drug Tests Detect Triple C in Your System?

Typical drug screenings are not designed to detect Triple C directly but are calibrated to identify illicit drugs and specific prescription meds within hair, urine, sweat, or blood samples. Given DXM’s structural similarities to controlled substances like PCP and ketamine, individuals who consume high doses of DXM may inadvertently produce false positives on PCP-specific urine tests.

Can you Overdose on Triple Cs?

Yes, an overdose on Triple C is a real and present danger, particularly because the dosages required to achieve a hallucinogenic high often far exceed safe consumption levels. This risk is underscored by the statistic that DXM is linked to thousands of emergency room visits each year across the U.S. An overdose situation with Triple C demands urgent medical intervention. Promptly dial 911 if you observe or suspect an overdose, ensuring immediate care and support.

Triple C’s Drug Addiction Treatment at Iris Wellness Group

Understanding the addictive potential of Triple Cs marks the beginning of your journey towards recovery. At Iris Wellness Group in Chattanooga, TN, we acknowledge the courage it takes to seek help, and we’re here to guide you through your path to wellness. We provide comprehensive outpatient care for both adults and teens, including standard outpatient programs (OP), intensive outpatient programs (IOP), adolescent IOP, partial hospitalization programs (PHP), and medically supervised outpatient detox services, designed to safely navigate the withdrawal process.

Our approach to treatment is customized to meet the individual needs of our clients, ensuring a tailored recovery experience. Whether you’re stepping down from more intensive care or starting your recovery with outpatient services, our dedicated team is committed to offering the support you need. For more information on our Triple C Drug addiction treatment options, including detox and various levels of outpatient care, please reach out to our admissions team at 423-919-9549 or fill out our online contact form. Begin your journey to a healthier future with Iris Wellness Group.

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