Drug Policy

Hey, Kids! Try This at Home!

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A new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) warns that the cough suppressant dextromethorphan (DXM) "can produce hallucinations or dissociative, 'out-of-body' experiences similar to those caused by the hallucinogens phencyclidine (PCP) and ketamine." Personally, I avoid cold remedies that contain dextromethorphan because I don't like the psychoactive effects of even a therapeutic dose, which leaves me tossing and turning with hypnagogic hallucinations dancing in my head. But the government's description makes me think I haven't given the stuff a fair chance. Which makes me wonder how bored teenagers are apt to respond when they're told that "young people are using cough syrups and cold pills in large doses to induce hallucinations, 'out-of-body' experiences or other effects," as Reuters tells us based on the federal report.

How many young people? According to SAMHSA's analysis of data from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, "nearly 1 million" in the past year, or less than 2 percent. "The results do not show whether this type of drug abuse is rising, falling or staying the same," Reuters notes. SAMHSA cites an increase in DXM-related calls to poison control centers in California between 1999 and 2004, which for all we know reflects a trend that already has flattened or reversed. With plugs from the government and the press, however, DXM could really catch on. SAMHSA helpfully informs the curious that dextromethorphan is "found in more than 140 cough and cold medications that are available without a prescription," and it even has the low-down on the most popular brands for getting high: NyQuil, Corcidin, and Robitussin, in that order.

If overdosing on a cough suppressant doesn't appeal to you, federal drug warriors and their journalistic enablers want you to know that Ecstasy is new and improved. Yesterday, under the  headline "Rise Seen in Trafficking of Enhanced Ecstasy," The New York Times reported:

Seizures of Ecstasy at the northern border increased tenfold from 2003 to 2006, with more than half of the contraband tablets containing methamphetamine, a vastly more addicting drug….

The development comes after an uptick in Ecstasy use after years of waning popularity for the club drug and just as the supply of methamphetamine is being strangled at the Mexican border. Some law enforcement and treatment experts hypothesize that the turbocharged combination is an effort by traffickers to reverse trends unfavorable to their business by marketing a new product at a new point of entry.

Ecstasy, which gained popularity in the 1990s rave culture, had been in steep decline since 2001, but began to creep upward in 2005 and 2006, when first-time users increased by 40 percent, a third of them under the age of 18, according to a variety of studies….

"This is simply my opinion," said Scott Burns, a deputy director at the drug control policy office, "but drug traffickers often have to reinvent or come up with new products when what we're doing is working."

And given their symbiotic relationship with drug traffickers, anti-drug crusaders are happy to help with the marketing.

[Thanks to BakedPenguin for the Reuters link.]