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Cough Medicines | La Hacienda

Cough Medicines

What is Cough Medicine?

Cough medicines or cough suppressants are medications used to treat a cough from a cold or flu. They work by blocking a person’s cough reflex. They may be used in combination with expectorant medications that help to thin mucus, clearing airways and lessening the need to cough.

Cough medicine comes as liquids, sprays and pills and can be purchased in over-the-counter drugs or with a prescription.

Cold medications with additional ingredients also alleviate other common cold symptoms such as a stuffy nose and sore throat.

What is the Cough Reflex?

Coughing is a natural defense mechanism that helps the body expel unwanted mucus, air, and bacteria.

The cough reflex occurs when cough receptors are stimulated in the respiratory tract by dust particles or other foreign objects. This results in coughing, which rapidly moves air, dislodging the particles before they can enter the lungs.

Unless coughing is causing other problems, a productive cough is usually better than a suppressed one.

Three Types of OTC Cough Medicines


As noted above, suppressants block the cough reflex. Dextromethorphan (DXM) is a common ingredient for this purpose and is usually listed as DM on the package and bottle.

When used as directed, DXM is safe and non-habit forming. However, misuse of DXM causes euphoria and hallucinations.

Because of the risk of addiction, dextromethorphan (DXM) by itself should only be used as instructed.


Expectorants thin the mucus, which is then broken up and passed out of the respiratory tract.

Most expectorants contain the active ingredient guaifenesin, which is present in many over-the-counter cough medicines. Guaifenesin loosens the mucus, allowing it to be coughed up.

Expectorants do not prevent coughing and can have serious side effects, such as vomiting and dizziness. They are not used for chronic bronchitis.


Natural treatments for coughing include menthol and camphor in ointments rubbed on chest and throat. Their vapors relieve the need to cough and open nasal passages.

They also come in liquid form for use in vaporizers. Menthol also comes in lozenges and compressed tablets.

Overuse may cause skin irritation, but generally ointments do not present a drug abuse problem.

Prescription Cough Medicines

Benzonatate is a cough suppressant used to relieve cough. It is part of a group of medications called antitussives, also known as cough suppressants. It works by reducing the cough reflex in the air passages and the lungs.

Cough Medicine is Readily Available

Cough medicine is readily available in many places, including drugstores. Although many drug stores have moved over the counter (OTC) bottles behind the counter rather than on open shelves.

Unfortunately, cough medicines have become a popular drug of abuse among young people and are highly addictive and can be fatal if abused. To avoid these dangers, it is best to know about the ingredients in cough medicines and how to use them safely.

Alcohol in Cough Medicines

Many cough and cold medicines contain alcohol, which can have a negative impact on users, especially recovering alcoholics. Cough and cold medicines containing alcohol may trigger a relapse.

Cough and cold medicines without alcohol are available, both over the counter and with a doctor prescription.

Drinking alcohol while taking cold and cough medications can be risky. Many cough and cold medicines contain acetaminophen, a painkiller. Alcohol combined with acetaminophen, which is available as Tylenol and in prescription drugs, can damage the kidneys.

In a recent study, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that 41 percent of people using over-the-counter cough and cold medicines drank alcohol with their medications.

Not for Children Under Age Two

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, children under two years of age should not be given cough and cold medicine.

Although cough and cold medicines are generally safe for older children, they may have serious side effects if used in excessive amounts.

Side Effects of Cough Medicines

Some of the most common side effects of cough medicines include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty in urination
  • Body aches
  • Drowsiness or dizziness
  • High blood pressure
  • Slowed breathing
  • Nausea or vomiting (severe)
  • Unusual restlessness, irritability, excitement, or nervousness
  • Shakiness and unsteady walk

Abuse of Cough Medicines

Drug abuse occurs when someone begins to use the medication for reasons other than directed. A dependence begins to develop and can eventually turn into addiction.

It is estimated that three million people have abused cough and cold medicines.

Other Cold Medicines


Decongestants relieve congestion in the upper respiratory tract. The active ingredient in most decongestants is either phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine.

Often combined with an antihistamine and a cough modulator, cough and cold combination products contain both decongestants and analgesics.


Antihistamines block histamines, chemicals the immune system produces to help the body get rid of unwanted substances like allergy pollens which causes symptoms like itching, sneezing, watery eyes, and runny nose.

Antihistamines can be purchased over-the-counter as pills, liquids, nasal sprays, eyedrops, and gels.

Treatment of Addiction to Cough Medicines at La Hacienda

Addiction to cough medicine is one of the substance use disorders La Hacienda Treatment Center’s has successfully treated for 50 years. The 40-acre campus in the Texas Hill Country is the perfect location for healing and beginning recovery.

La Hacienda’s on-site medical and clinical staff thoroughly assess each new patient and prepare an individualized treatment plan according to their needs.

The doctors and psychiatrists are experienced in treatment of abuse of and addiction to prescription cough medicines and OTC cough medicines. They oversee medically supported detoxification (if necessary) and provide sound professional medical advice daily to patients.

An Evidence-Based Therapy Program

Treatment at La Hacienda includes personal and group counseling, instruction in helpful techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy to avoid relapse, and in-depth introduction to the first four steps of the 12-step program. A four-day Family Program is available to help loved ones better understand the disease and learn better communication skills and other tools to help with recovery.

For more information or to start the admission process, please call and talk with one of our helpful on-campus admission specialists.

Cough Suppressant | La Hacienda

OTC Drug

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs do not require a prescription from a healthcare provider. Some OTC medicines relieve pain and itching. Some cure or prevent disease, such as athlete\’s foot or tooth decay. Others help manage recurring problems, like allergies or migraines.

The Food and Drug Administration, in the United States decides whether a medicine is effective or safe to sell over-the-counter. A person also needs to be careful to avoid mistake and make sure to follow the instructions on a prescription label.

Dry Cough | La Hacienda


Dextromethorphan is an over-the-counter drug that suppresses coughing. When used as directed, DXM is safe and non-habit forming. However, abuse can lead to similar experiences to those associated with ketamine and PCP.

For these reasons, it is important to understand the dangers of DXM abuse and the potential consequences. There is no legal limit to DXM abuse, and it is available in a variety of tablet forms.

Family Physicians Treat Coughs | La Hacienda

Cold Medicines

Cold medicines can be found in most pharmacies and grocery stores. They are used to remedy the symptoms of a cold or flu. Although nothing can cure the common cold, some remedies might ease the symptoms and allow a person to be more comfortable.

OTC pain relievers, decongestants, and antihistamines may relieve some symptoms of pain. However, they do not shorten the duration or prevent a cold from happening.

Robitussin Chest Congestion And Robitussin Cough | La Hacienda

Motion Sickness Pills

Dimenhydrinate is a medication that is used to treat and prevent vomiting, dizziness and nausea that is caused by motion sickness. It is in a class of medications called antihistamines and works by preventing issues with body balance.