6 doctors weighed in:

Overdose on cough syrup or just alcohol poisoning? I keep hearing about kids overdosing on cough medicine...I thought it was all alcohol. How does this happen? Is it really alcohol poisoning or something else?

6 doctors weighed in
Dr. Anthony Vertino
Clinical Psychology
3 doctors agree

In brief: Overdose

Cough syrup is very dangerous in large amounts.
Dextromethorphan can cause boring holes in your brain called Olney lesions. It is not alcohol poisoning and often can be confusing to the ER docs when these kids present as intoxicated.

In brief: Overdose

Cough syrup is very dangerous in large amounts.
Dextromethorphan can cause boring holes in your brain called Olney lesions. It is not alcohol poisoning and often can be confusing to the ER docs when these kids present as intoxicated.
Dr. Anthony Vertino
Dr. Anthony Vertino
Thank
Dr. Anthony Rooklin
Internal Medicine - Allergy & Immunology

In brief: Codeine

The most effective cough suppressant is Codeine which is often in a cough syrup that is an elixer which contains alcohol.
Thus with children there is a risk of both drugs causing a problem. One needs to be careful to follow the directions and use the appropriate dose depending on both age and size of the patient.The younger the patient the more the risk. A teaspoon of honey may be much safer.

In brief: Codeine

The most effective cough suppressant is Codeine which is often in a cough syrup that is an elixer which contains alcohol.
Thus with children there is a risk of both drugs causing a problem. One needs to be careful to follow the directions and use the appropriate dose depending on both age and size of the patient.The younger the patient the more the risk. A teaspoon of honey may be much safer.
Dr. Anthony Rooklin
Dr. Anthony Rooklin
Thank
Dr. Geoffrey Rutledge
Internal Medicine

In brief: When

When children overdose on cough medicine, it is not generally the alcohol that hurts them, but other ingredients.
The most dangerous for kids are the decongestants, such as Pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine. Some prescription cough syrups contain narcotics such as codeine, but it is difficult to overdose on this unless taken in doses larger than recommended. Alot of the hooplah over cold medicines in children is not only the fact that they can be overdosed on (which is true of any medicine), but that they don't make kids feel any better, so there is no benefit to having them on the market. Now, if by "kids" you are referring to adolescents, you might be thinking about dextromethorphan containing cough syrup. It is not uncommon for you people to try to take these substances to get high. The effects of dextromethorphan in high doses include euphoria and hallucinations, but reasons that these folks end up in the hospital include tachycardia (fast heart rate), inability to urinate, and injuries due to doing stupid things while taking these drugs.

In brief: When

When children overdose on cough medicine, it is not generally the alcohol that hurts them, but other ingredients.
The most dangerous for kids are the decongestants, such as Pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine. Some prescription cough syrups contain narcotics such as codeine, but it is difficult to overdose on this unless taken in doses larger than recommended. Alot of the hooplah over cold medicines in children is not only the fact that they can be overdosed on (which is true of any medicine), but that they don't make kids feel any better, so there is no benefit to having them on the market. Now, if by "kids" you are referring to adolescents, you might be thinking about dextromethorphan containing cough syrup. It is not uncommon for you people to try to take these substances to get high. The effects of dextromethorphan in high doses include euphoria and hallucinations, but reasons that these folks end up in the hospital include tachycardia (fast heart rate), inability to urinate, and injuries due to doing stupid things while taking these drugs.
Dr. Geoffrey Rutledge
Dr. Geoffrey Rutledge
Thank
Get help from a real doctor now
Dr. Aaron Milstone
Board Certified, Internal Medicine - Pulmonology
24 years in practice
1M people helped
Continue
111,000 doctors available
Read more answers from doctors