Know the Signs of Teen or Tween 'Robo Tripping'

The abuse of over-the-counter drugs by teens and tweens is on the rise. With kids home from school for the summer – and with more free time on their hands – the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is asking parents to be more vigilant and aware of what their children are up to.

It’s called “Robo tripping” – the use of over-the-counter cold and cough medications by adolescents to achieve a kind of hallucinogenic high. It usually involves medicines containing dextromethorphan (DXM), which is an ingredient in more than 125 medications, including well-known brands such as Robitussin™ and Coricidin™.

The ASA notes that Robo tripping can have severe consequences – from hallucinations to loss of consciousness and even death. Yet nearly 10 percent of American teens have admitted to getting high by using these over-the-counter medicines. Adolescents ages 9-17 have admitted to using the drugs because they’re inexpensive, legal and readily available.

ASA physicians offer parents these signs of possible Robo tripping to look for in kids:

  • An unusual medicinal smell on your child.
  • Empty or missing cough and cold medicine bottles.
  • An unexplainable disappearance of money from the house.
  • A sudden change in your child’s physical appearance, attitude, and sleeping and/or eating habits.
  • Questionable or unexpected packages arriving in the mail addressed to your child.
  • Visits by your child to pro-drug websites.

What can you do to prevent this kind of abuse? The ASA offers these tips:

  • Teach your child about the dangers of drug abuse.
  • Control access to cough and cold medications (you may need to lock your medicine cabinet).
  • Familiarize yourself – and don’t stockpile – medicines containing DXM
  • Actively monitor your credit card statements to make sure your child isn’t using your card to obtain these medications. And monitor your child’s Internet use for any visits to pro-drug sites.

For more information on Robo tripping, visit

Related reading: When and How to Talk to Kids About Drugs


Posted July 2010