CLEVELAND--A young woman from Northeast Ohio is issuing a warning about the abuse of a popular over-the-counter medication.
Samantha Hodge, 18, still struggles with the side effects of taking an abundance of Robitussin. The practice of abusing the medication, manufactured by Pfizer, is known as Robotripping.
“It was just recently, like, I don’t know, two or three months, that I started with the Robotripping,” said Samantha. “I tried it one night and, the one time I tried it, I instantly got hooked.”
Samantha was hooked because of a key ingredient in the medication, Dextromethorphan, or DXM. When used properly, DXM is supposed to help someone with a cough or cold overcome their symptoms, but it can offer a high-like state to abusers.
“Over-confidence, hallucinations, get very jittery, very antsy. I hear things and I see things. I have nightmares. I see aliens. I see demons. I hear - like - an orchestra,” said Samantha.
Her mother, Melissa Hodge, has been very concerned about her well-being. “It’s very scary - very scary. My heart’s broke,” said Melissa.
According to Samantha, she almost died several weeks ago when she was rushed to the hospital after taking too much of the medication and it wasn’t accidental; she was trying to get high.
According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland, DXM abuse among teens has risen.
“Never, ever, ever exceed the amount that is on the box and never exceed the amount that your doctor tells you to take,” said Dr. Christine Alexander, the Interim Chair of Family Medicine at MetroHealth Medical Center.
“Even the most benign medicine - or what seems to be the most benign medicine - when used in large doses or incorrectly, more frequently, can be dangerous,” said Dr. Alexander.
“It may seem to be an escape, but it’s not; it will only hurt you,” said Samantha, who said she’s speaking out to keep others from experimenting with Robotripping.
“When you try to chase the ultimate high, bad things happen.”
MacKay Jimeson, a spokesperson for Pfizer, released the following statement:
“Pfizer is committed to helping ensure the responsible use of our medicines, and Robitussin is safe and effective when used as directed. We are encouraged by this young woman’s choice to advocate against abuse of OTC dextromethorphan. Pfizer works proactively with organizations such as the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) and Partnership at Drugfree.org on efforts to educate both parents and teens including ‘Stop Medicine Abuse’ and ‘DXM Stories,’ on the risks of this behavior and we include a prominent educational icon on packaging of our dextromethorphan-containing products that directs to resources for parents. In addition, we have been working closely with CHPA and lawmakers in an effort to pass a federal law that would require purchasers to be age 18 or older and to place a ban on raw, unfinished bulk dextromethorphan.”
Melissa Hodge, Samantha’s mother, also applauds her daughter for trying to make a difference. “This, what we’re doing right here, is helping so much because I just want other parents to be aware and know the signs.”
The signs include mood changes, depression and problems focusing.
“It scares me,” said Samantha. “I don’t wanna be like this forever. I don’t want to be like this any longer.”
Some states, including New York, already have laws in place that prohibit the sale of DXM-containing products to minors.