The Food and Drug Administration has scheduled a meeting this fall to discuss ways to curb abuse of a key ingredient found in Robitussin and other cough suppressing medicines.
The FDA will ask a panel of outside experts to make recommendations on Sept. 14 to stop adolescents from abusing the ingredient dextromethorphan for its euphoric effects, sometimes called "robotripping."
Dextromethorphan is found in a number of over-the-counter medicines made by Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and other consumer health companies.
In recent months Pfizer, J&J and other drugmakers have lobbied on efforts in Congress to reduce abuse of their medications.
State lawmakers are also pushing legislation that would tighten controls.
Robotripping has been popularized by the hip hop community, in which the concoction of cough medicine and soda or juice has been referred to as purple drank or sizzurp.
What’s purple drank?
Purple drank is a slang term for the recreational drug cocktail popular in the south and referenced by several rappers like Kanye West, Three 6 Mafia, Mike Jones and Lil’ Wayne. It’s a mixture of prescription cough syrup containing codeine, along with lemon-lime soda and often Jolly Rancher candy to change flavors and colors, and sipped as an all-day drink.
The “purple” comes from the purple color of the cough syrup used.
Most of the prescription cough syrups used to make purple drank are a blend of codeine and promethazine. An antihistamine, promethazine is added to the formula to counter the postnarcotic nausea that could be brought on from the codeine.
A dangerous trend
Dr. Kirk Houghes has been following the rise of the class five narcotic, ever since a Houston DJ developed the underground drink back in 1999.
Self-described 'codeine fiends' have been around for nearly a decade, but emergency rooms in Minnesota have just started seeing an abuse of the drug about 8 months ago.
The same DJ who promoted "Purple Drank' died of an overdose a year later.
"Many people use this with alcohol... and when you do that you're asking for trouble. You can quit breathing," says Hughes.
Cough syrup with codeine can sell on the street for up to $500 a pint, which might explain why some have gotten desperate enough to jump a pharmacy counter.
In June 2008, Innovative Beverage Group released a drink called Purple Drank, which contains no drugs, but claims to have a mix of herbal ingredients to “slow your roll.”