How Cough Medicines are sometimes dangerous?

How Cough Medicines are sometimes dangerous?

Cough is one of the many health problems that makes people go look straight for medicines. And not because it’s a serious problem but it cause serious discomfort and irritation. For years and till now, we have been so relying on Cough Medicines that not once in all these years have we ever question the efficacy of them or just wondered if they really work or not.

But the increased death cases because of intentional or accidental over abuse of Cough Medicines, made us realize how casually we have been using them. When taken in recommended doses, cough medicines don’t pose any health threat. But, there is no doubt that its overdose has some serious side effects.

Once available as the over the counter medicines, the cough syrup bottles are made prescription medicines due to its over abuse as drugs by teens.

Active ingredients present in medicines for cough and cold

Many of you would have felt light headed or disoriented after taking any cough and cold medicine. The reason being that maybe you don’t realise that you have taken more than the recommended dose. So, it is very important to know the active ingredients of a cough and cold medicine and its right dosage.

Often times, we ask the pharmacist for an effective cough medicine and use it without actually knowing its components. And that mistake can sometimes cost us more than what we paid for.

Let’s see what the main components of a cold and cough medicine are:

  • Expectorants: An expectorant helps loosen mucus so you can cough it up. Thus, providing relief in cough.
  • Decongestants: helps relieve congestion by reducing swelling, inflammation within the nasal passages.
  • Cough suppressants: Just what its name suggest, Cough suppressants reduces cough by suppressing it. One of the commonly used cough suppressant is a VapoRub.
  • Analgesics: also called painkillers, are used to relieve pain. One of the most common are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).

One of the most common Cough suppressant, Dextromethorphan is found to cause many health issues, when taken in large quantities.

Approved by the FDA in 1958, Dextromethorphan (DXM) is found in at least 70 common over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines. And when taken in large amounts, it can cause hallucinations and alter time perception. The bigger problem comes when DXM is mixed with alcohol, as it can also lead to death.

Health Risks of Abusing Cough Medicines:

Cough Medicines

While cough medicines are pushed behind the counter because of the presence of alcohol and codeine and their health concerns. The abuse of cough medicines is still on the rise. With codeine and alcohol being replaced by Dextromethorphan (DXM), the abuse of cough medicines has seen a rise as DXM is also available in powder, capsule, and pill forms.

One of the many reasons why DXM is used as a drug is that using it over the recommended dose, gives the person an out of body experience. The effects of Dextromethorphan are similar to that PCP and anaesthetic ketamine (both are abused for its hallucinogenic effects)1.

Some of the other effects of DXM abuse are:

  • Lack of coordination
  • Nausea, dizziness and vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased Heart beat
  • Panic attack or seizures
  • Hot flashes.

The adverse effects of DXM over abuse are mostly on the nervous system like Paranoia and hallucinations, whole-body spasms, and in worst cases the person experiences full-blown psychosis with hallucinations.2

Over abuse of Cough Medicines While Pregnant:

Cough Medicines

It is known that there are many health effects of over abuse of cough medicine for kids. But, a lot of pregnant women doesn’t know the adverse effects of overusing cough syrups. In the case of pregnant women, every intake has a direct impact of the fetus.

When used in recommended doses, Cough medicines don’t have any adverse effects on the mother or on the baby. But, prolonged abuse of Cough Medicine can mood changes like depression and mania, liver damage in mothers and can also affect the fetus.3

All in all, we can conclude that cough medicines when taken in right quantities do not cause any health problems. And with the availability of Ayurvedic Cough medicines, it is easier to prevent cough medicines abuse in teens or in general.



Hope you find the blog informative and helpful to you. If yes, then like it and share your opinions in the comment section below. Also, aware other people around you by sharing it among your family and friends.

Habiba Fatima
Habiba Fatima is currently working as a content writer at Sterling India Pvt Ltd. She has a Masters degree (M.Tech) in Biotechnology. Apart from being a health blogger, she spends her time writing poetry.