What are Triple C’s?
“Triple C” is a slang term used to refer to the over-the-counter cough and cold medicine called Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold.
The medication contains dextromethorphan, or DXM, which is commonly abused by young people seeking a cheap, accessible high. People may also use the term “Triple C’s” to refer to any kind of cough and cold medicine that contains DXM, as there are many different brand names available today.
When taken in high doses that exceed therapeutic doses, DXM can produce hallucinations and dissociative symptoms. People who abuse triple c’s usually swallow the pills, but some may crush and snort them or dissolve the tablets in liquid to increase the speed of the onset of effects.
What Do Triple C’s Look Like?
Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold is sold in the form of round red tablets that contain 30 mg of DXM. However, the medication is available in various forms, including:
- Corcidin Chest Congestion & Cough – red softgel capsules containing 10 mg of DXM.
- Coricidin Maximum Strength Flu – red oblong tablets containing 15 mg of DXM.
Side Effects of Dextromethorphan (DXM)
DXM works by blocking the effects of the NMDA glutamate receptor, causing dissociation and a dream-like state. DXM may produce different side effects at different doses. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, DXM users describe four different dose-dependent plateaus which produce varying effects.
- 1st plateau – Mild stimulant-like effects such as increased energy and focus.
- 2nd plateau – Feelings of euphoria and mild hallucinations.
- 3rd plateau – Distorted visual perceptions, intense hallucinations, and loss of motor coordination.
- 4th plateau – Dissociative feelings, sedation, and loss of consciousness.
The dissociative and hallucinogenic effects of DXM can last for up to six hours. Many people who take high doses of DXM report having “bad trips,” which are characterized by confusion, perception changes, and frightening hallucinations.
Common side effects of DXM include:
- Slurred speech
- Red or watering eyes
- Sensations of floating
- Dream-like states
- Poor muscle control
- Loss of coordination
- Itchy skin
- Stomach pain
- Vision changes
- Nausea and abdominal pain
- Increased blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Possible brain damage
Other Slang Terms Besides Triple C
Triple C’s or CCCs may also be referred to as:
- Red devils
- Poor man’s PCP
Why Do People Abuse Triple C’s?
Some states have enacted laws that place DXM-containing products behind the counter, requiring pharmacists to check IDs to make sure a person is over the age of 18 before selling them. However, DXM is still federally legal and is available over the counter in most states. This means teens and drug users can easily purchase and obtain the substance. Not only that, but triple c’s are fairly inexpensive, so they are easy to afford.
Since triple c’s are sold in stores without a prescription, young people often view them as a safer, cheaper alternative to illicit street drugs.
The Dangers of Triple C (DXM) Abuse
While high on DXM, people may lose control of their muscles and movements–and they can even lose consciousness. This increases the risk of injury, accidents, and sexual assault. DXM abuse can also produce scary hallucinations, feelings of being trapped, and extreme confusion. In very high doses, DXM can even cause brain damage.
Taking high doses of DXM on a regular basis can lead to a mental condition called toxic psychosis, which occurs when a person loses contact with reality and is unable to realize what is real and what isn’t real.
Many Corcidian Cough & Cold products also contain acetaminophen, an over-the-counter pain reliever and fever reducer. While acetaminophen can be safe when taken as directed, taking too much of it can put stress on the liver, and regular abuse of acetaminophen can lead to permanent liver damage and failure.
Finally, long-term triple c abuse is associated with kidney stones, kidney failure, liver failure, and permanent brain damage.
Can You Get Addicted to Triple C’s?
Dextromethorphan is not a controlled substance, however, it is possible to get addicted to triple c’s if you abuse them. Heavy DXM users may experience withdrawal symptoms for about a week after quitting. DXM withdrawal symptoms include:
- Poor attention span
- Memory problems
- Panic attacks
Because of the risks and the potential for addiction, it’s important to seek professional treatment if you or someone you love are suffering from an addiction to triple c’s.
Find Help Now
Abusing triple c’s can be dangerous, and long-term use can be life-altering. At Moving Mountains Recovery, we take a whole-person approach to recovery by offering a continuum of care, clinically proven treatments, and holistic healing. We work closely with you to identify your unique needs, facilitate individualized treatments, and help you establish a foundation upon which your recovery–and the rest of your life–can grow. Our compassionate, friendly staff is available 24 hours a day to take your call and help you begin your recovery journey. Call now to get started.
- Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA): Dextromethorphan, Retrieved May 2023 from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/dextro_m.pdf
- Daily Med at National Institutes of Health: Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold Cough Suppressant, Antihistamine, Retrieved May 2023 from https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/fda/fdaDrugXsl.cfm?setid=ee666963-e686-4374-b52b-a677f1cd4114&type=display
- Journal of Addiction Medicine: Long-term Dextromethorphan Use and Acute Intoxication Results in an Episode of Mania and Auto nucleation, Retrieved May 2023 from https://journals.lww.com/journaladdictionmedicine/Abstract/2020/08000/Long_term_Dextromethorphan_Use_and_Acute.39.aspx