Lakota Country Times: Cough suppressant abuse rises at Pine Ridge

Cough syrup for sale at a drug store. Photo by Jay Cox via Flickr

Cough-suppressant abuse high in Pine Ridge
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

PINE RIDGE-- The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation has seen the popularity of a household item sky-rocket as many youth are turning to cough suppressants as a cheap and easily accessible intoxicant.

It is hard to walk anywhere in Pine Ridge and not stumble across a discarded bottle of cough syrup. Both the Toby Eagle Bull Memorial Skate Park and the campus of Pine Ridge school have reported a proliferation of empty bottles just laying out in plain sight. The presence of these bottles are a symptom of a larger problem on the reservation of youth abusing cough syrup.

"We started to see it come around about two years ago," said John Hudspeth of Canksa Yuha. Canksa Yuha is a new security firm on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation by Hudspeth and another former officer of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, John Mousseaux.

Hudspeth says that the high that users experience is very similar to that of alcohol but it is far easier to access. Pine Ridge

According to both Hudspeth and Mousseaux the drug is widely available on the reservation because stores are stocking cases of the product knowing full well that it is being abused by the youth.

"There is no reason why a store would need to put an order in for four cases of Robitussin," said Mousseaux.

The two contractors have said that there are two ways of combating the problem: The first is for parents to be made aware of the symptoms of use and the second is for tribal government to implement news laws that would make it harder for youth to get their hands on it.

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"In some places across the country all purchases of these products are logged and stored. There are regulations in place the monitor what stores purchases and children under the age of 18 cannot buy them," said Hudspeth.

The use of cough syrups containing codeine traces itself to the deep south where it was glamorized by hip-hop artists who had begun mixing the drug with alcohol.

Both Hudspeth and Mousseaux said that they have encountered instances where youth had been mixing the substance with sodas or fruit juices to make the product more easily consumed.

Over the counter medicines often contain Dextromethorphan(DXM), a cough suppressant and expectorant can produce euphoria and dissociative effects or even hallucinations when taken in quantities greater than the recommended dose. These products are flying off the shelf according to the two former officers.

The most preferred substance for addicts is Promethazine-codeine cough syrup. Although this can only be a medications prescribed by a doctor the codeine in these cough suppressants can produce a feeling of relaxation and euphoria when consumed at a higher-than-prescribed dose.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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