Tuesday August 14th 2018

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Street Names For Over The Counter Drugs

ARTICLE SUMMARY: Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can be abused. These medicines can cause harm. Discover more about risks of OTC medicines and how people talk about the popular ingredient, DXM, on the street.


Active Ingredients
Street Names


Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are medicines which are available without a prescription. This means that you can buy them directly from retailers like Walgreens, CVS, RiteAid, or Walmart. OTC medicines treat a variety of illnesses and symptoms such as:

  • acne
  • allergies
  • colds
  • constipation
  • coughs
  • diarrhea
  • pain
  • upset stomach

Some OTC medicines have active ingredients with the potential for misuse at higher-than-recommended dosages. There average number of OCT medicines on the marketplace today has reached 100,000.  Just as prescription medications are under the control and regulation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),  over-the-counter drugs are also FDA controlled substances. OTCs are available  in pharmacies, convenience and grocery stores, or mass merchandisers.


The FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) is responsible for reviewing OTC medicines. Specifically, CDER’s Office of Nonprescription Drugs takes primary responsibility for the safety of OTCs.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has authority in the area of child-resistant closures, found in many OTC products. Because there are some ingredients in OCTs that have an addictive potential, consumers are advised to use OTC as directed and carefully read the Drug Facts label instructs consumers on how to properly choose and use them.


Over-the-counter medicines are safe and effective when you follow the directions on the label and your health care professional advice.L ike illegal and prescription drugs, OTCs are also abused by many people who attempt to self-medicate. Misuse includes:

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  • Taking a medicine in ways other than prescribed (snorting, injecting, inhaling).
  • Taking medicines more often than recommended.
  • Taking medicines in higher doses than recommended.

The most important thing to consider when using these medicines is taking them in exact doses as directed. Any increase or decrease in your daily doses is dangerous and may expose you to various different health risks.  Regardless of the fact that OTCs are less potent than other prescription drugs, they still carry the risk for dependence and addiction.

To read more about the safety of these medicines visit FDA’s table listing with Over-the-Counter Guidances

Active Ingredients

If you are interested in finding out the exact ingredients in OTSs approved by the FDA check out this Guide to OTC Active Ingredients in the United States published on April 11 by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.  The document focuses on permitted OTC active ingredients followed by FDA’s classification of active ingredients and their allocation to product categories.


Most people mainly abuse OTCs for two reasons

A) To get high.

Some users are well aware of the fact that over the counter drugs can create a feeling of euphoria and high depending on the ingredients they contain in their formula. To reach a state of high, users usually take large OTC doses which can lead to dangerous consequences. When you think about chasing the euphoric feeling be aware that you are exposing yourself to the risk of:

  • Brain damage.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Nausea and vomiting.


More recently, the ingredient dextromethorphan (DXM) – used as an active cough suppressant present in many over-the-counter cough and cold medicines – has been used in drinks and by adolescents to get high. The DEA reports that DXM is found in over 150 cold medicines. DXM is a synthetically produced substance that is chemically related to codeine, though it is not an opiate.

B) To manufacture other drugs.

Users also buy pseudoephedrine, another active ingredient found in OTC cold medicines, to make methamphetamine.

Street Names

Dextromethorphan (DXM) is a cough suppressant and is the most popular OTC currently being used to get high. This medication can be found in the form of a syrup, tablets and gel capsules. OTC medications that contain DXM often times include antihistamines and decongestants. Sometimes users tend to mix DXM with soda to improve the flavor. This combination is known as “robo-tripping” or “skittling.” Another method of DXM abuse is by injecting it. To reach an even intensive high some users mistakenly believe that they can take Dextromethorphan in combination with alcohol and marijuana.

Street names for DX include:

  • Candy
  • CCC or Triple C (Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold)
  • Dex
  • DM
  • Drex
  • DXM
  • Orange Crush
  • Poor Man’s PCP
  • Red Devils
  • Robo (Robitussin)
  • Rojo
  • Skittles
  • Syrup
  • Tussin
  • Velvet
  • Vitamin D

Do You Have Any Questions?

We hope to answered your main questions regaring the use of over-the-counter drugs. But, if you still have some concerns, questions and/or experiences that you’d like to share with other readers, please feel free to share them in the designated section below. We will respond to all legitimate inqueries promptly and personally.

Reference sources:  WebMD slideshow on prescription drug use
Kids Health. org – Cold Medicine Abuse
DXM drug guide
FDA: Understanding Over-the-Counter Medicines
Medline Plus: Over-the-counter medicines
FDA: Understanding Over-the-Counter Medicines
NCBI: Over-the-counter medicines
NIH: Over-the-Counter Medicines

Photo credit: Yuko Chan

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6 Responses to “Street Names For Over The Counter Drugs
Kid from the 80's
11:27 am March 24th, 2011

I remember in 1987 people in junior high were caught drinking Robitussin at school. Back then, it was called “Robo”. I thought it was pretty lame, but then again, I had my first drunk much later in life. And I saw somewhere that people are mixing Robitussin with vodka for jello shots. Who thinks of these things???

11:19 pm April 7th, 2011

are u telling me over the counter drugs are really sometimes bad for you

10:13 am April 8th, 2011

Hi tyasia, Yes. OTC drugs can be bad for you if you use them to get high or make illegal drugs.

Lacryssia Majjaki
9:06 pm September 20th, 2011

i think that when people abuse over the counter drugs their doctor should be notified and should not be able to give them the drugs anymore. why waste perfectly good medicine on pople hwo abuse them?

carl s
1:24 pm January 7th, 2012

does gualfenesin show up in a drug test as an illegal substance. alot of the cough syrups have it along with dxm. which may show up as pcp.
some syrups just have this one ingredient.

1:13 am May 20th, 2013

Hi, So if one takes an incredible amount of caugh syrup, the caugh syrup can be classified as a hallucinogen drug?

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