Skittling Drug Habit is Deceptive, Accessible to Preteens and Teens, Warn Experts

Skittling Drug Habit is Deceptive, Accessible to Preteens and Teens, Warn Experts

What happens when pills resembling a popular candy are abused, and then given a popular term? A dangerous and life-threatening mix results, especially for middle school and high school students, experts warn.

Called “skittling,” the term refers to young people substituting cough suppressants and a decongestant or antihistamine, often found in a little red pill, for the red candies found in a Skittles bag. Then the drugs are consumed by the handful.

The ingredients used in skittling drugs are found in the cough and cold over-the-counter medication Corididin HBP, a combination of dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant also called DMX, and the antihistamine chlorpheniramine or pseudoephedrine. Certain formulas of Robitussin and Sudafed have been used during skittling episodes, which can both be commonly found in many homes.

Dangerous and deadly side effects can occur during skittling, including sharp rises in blood pressure and heart rate levels, seizures and hallucinations. Officials at poison control centers nationwide are urging parents to watch their teens carefully for signs of abusing cough and cold medications. They also suggest parents have conversations with preteens and teens about how dangerous the abuse of over-the-counter drugs is.

Users report a feeling of being intoxicated and may also show speech problems, become very agitated or extremely tired. Many have trouble walking and report vision problems – potentially setting the stage for deadly car accidents or other injury accidents. The effects of skittling are varied among teens, making some extremely fidgety and excited and others very drowsy. Many have reported using skittling as a way to relieve stress or tension, and may quickly become dependent on the habit to escape negative emotions.

School officials are sending a warning to parents that the medications used for skittling are available almost anywhere to teens, and their availability may be perpetuated by parents’ use of cold and cough medications at home. Additionally, some teens may be used to taking medications for minor ailments and may slide into abuse without capturing parents’ attention.

Because the cough and cold medications used during skittling are almost indistinguishable from candy, teens can abuse the drugs at school and other settings without notice by adults. Drug officials also fear that teens may use skittling as a segway to methamphetamine or other drug use, such as prescription painkillers. Some major retailers, including Wal-Mart, are working to help prevent drug abuse by minors by limiting the age for purchasing certain over-the-counter medications and limiting the quantity a customer can purchase.

As with preventing many forms of drug and alcohol abuse, experts recommend that parents make a serious effort to know exactly what their teen is doing and what types of activities are happening when teens get together. Carefully monitoring their Internet use to prevent purchases of medications online can also help.

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