Robotripping: Teens Getting High, Tripping on Cold Medicine

Posted July 18, 2008 by

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If you think your child hasn’t tried Robotripping, you might want to read this.

Last week, a mom wrote to us with this story:

I’m not sure if you are aware of this recent  trend of kids drinking Robitussin, but I found out about it by accident from my 16-year old daughter, who lives with her Dad.  She got mixed up with a 19-year old freak who drinks whole entire bottles of Robitussin to get high.

My daughter said she will never do this again, because it made her so sick she was vomiting on and off for 3 days. Do you have any recent reports or info regarding students under the age of 18 using Robitussin to get high? This is the first I have heard about it.

–Southwest Mom

To be honest, I’d heard murmurs about this trend, but didn’t realize how widespread it has gotten. When I was in high school, I remember a kid named Mike who drank Scope and cough syrup between classes. Everyone knew he was doing it, but nobody else joined in. In fact, I remember feeling a little sorry for him. Well, times have changed. I dug around on the Internet and found out that “Robotripping,” as it’s often called, is hugely popular with kids aged 9-17.  Basically, it involves consuming large amounts of Robitussin or other cough syrups containing DXM until you get high — apparently, when you drink enough of it, it has a hallucinogenic effect. Coricidin, or “doing Skittles” is also a popular abuse of an OTC drug. (1 in 10 teens admitted to abusing the medicine to get high.) Kids feel like it’s safe to do this because these are medicines found in their parents’ bathrooms, but sadly, some have actually overdosed and died from Robotripping.

Does anyone else have more information on this, or on other OTC drugs that kids are abusing? (I’m including a link here to the website, where a doctor describes what you should look for if you suspect your child is Robotripping.)


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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  1. topperswife Report

    My 19 year old son has been doing this for almost 2 years. I have been reading everyone’s stories, and they all sound so familiar. I can tell when my son is on it. He will call me and be so nice and loving saying I love you mom over and over. And talking about how much he loves his little sister, she is almost 11 and knows that he does this. I recently remarried and moved about 75 miles away from him. He is still in our rent house, he works but can’t seem to get it together financially so we have been paying his rent. His electric will probably be cut off today, I’m not paying it anymore. When he is off of the robotussin he is hateful, abusive, just a mean person. He is probably feeling like crap from coming down, I imagine. He has gone from keeping the house spotless to now we can’t even get in the front door because of the house being so trashed. This has happened in a month’s time. I am so worried about him, he is slowly killing himself. He won’t go to counseling, or rehab, or anything like that. He has a girlfriend who lives with him occasionally and she has used the robotussin a few times and I told him do not let her do that she will wind up dead. I’m not sure if she has stopped or not. I have begged him please stop. But guess what neither one of my boys ( I also have a son who is almost 18 who occasionally uses robo) but neither one of them like to smoke marijuana. I am so worried. I have lupus and don’t have a lot of energy to run after him, and plus he is an adult now. Just not a very good one.

  2. Anonomous Report

    Hello to all the parents out there.
    I thought you might want some advice from a past drug user including cough syrup. I have just turned 18 and I quit all the drugs that I was doing a few months ago; however, i still smoke tobacco. Being that I have tried many illicit and OTC drugs, I thought i might shed a little light on these “Drug problems”. And by the way, my drug of choice was cough syrup a.k.a. DXM. I have had my troubles in the past and have done more drugs then i would like to admit, but let me get to the original point. Parents, if you find your child depressed or anyway mentally unstable, they are more likely to use drugs do to a term called “Self Medication”. When you finally bust them, don’t just discipline them but also educate them on the harms and all the stuff that comes with being involved with the drug world; however, I don’t know if this is a gene or what, but some kids out there (including me) did everything and anything to get high. The thing is when you come across someone like this, about the only thing you can do is try to help via dsciplin, education, or mental evaluation, hospitallization. The thing is your child has to decide for themselves whether or not they want to keep a hold of their bad habits. I f they choose to keep on, then no matter what you, law enforcement, and any other authorities do, they won’t stop and will ALWAYS find away around it. It seems like people are finding new ways to get high everyday so isolating them will only cause them to be creative. Bottom line is it is not your fault. I think some people are just born with the mindset of drugs. Others just choose to do them, but either way all you can do is help and the final decision is theirs. You can’t force your opinions and wants on them you have to convince them or they have convince themselves.
    I hope this helps, I just thought some of you might want to see the other side of the story.

  3. D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor Report

    To “WhatToDoNow”: Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. I can hear how upsetting your son’s choices are for you. I am sorry you are going through this. No parent should have to deal with this behavior on their own. Seeking outside support may be a good way of addressing the issue, for both you and your son. A boy’s treatment center is one option. You might also consider having him go to a substance abuse counselor if possible. This may also be an effective way of helping your son tackle the issue. Even if he refuses to go, it might be helpful to talk with a substance abuse counselor on your own about some ways you can address this issue with your son. You can contact the 211 National Helpline for a referral to a substance abuse counselor or therapist in your area. The number is 1-800-273-6222. You can also access this service by logging onto
    Keep in mind, it’s going to be most effective to focus on what you can control, namely, how you respond to your son’s behavior and how you hold your son accountable for his choices. If there comes a time when you believe either your son (or daughter) is under the influence of drugs again, you might consider either taking him to the emergency room or calling 911. For now, you can begin by setting firm limits and clear boundaries, as Kimberly Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner advise in the article My Child Is Using Drugs or Drinking Alcohol—What Should I Do? Debbie Pincus also gives some great advice on how to draw clear boundaries in her article Throwing It All Away: When Good Kids Make Bad Choices. You may find this useful as you continue to help your son through these challenges. We wish you and your family the best. Take care.

  4. WhatToDoNow Report

    My 20 year daughter went nuts at a friends house a couple of weeks ago and finally admitted that she was tripping on “triple C” (Coricidin Cough & Cold) tablets. It took days for this stuff to get out of her system and during those “coming down” days, she was out of control with anger outburts that were just horific. Now, I just found out that my 17 year old son has been doing the same thing. He and my younger daughter went to visit their grandmother for a couple of weeks and she says that this is not her grandson as he lost his temper and put holes in her walls when she caught him sneaking out of the house at 1 a.m. Everyone on this site says to help my son but how? He is out of control now and the only thing I know to do is try to talk him into giving his consent to go to a boy’s treatment center. But what if he won’t? What do I do?

  5. geez Report

    I’m glad I came across this website and this particle conversation… I’ve been in a relationship on and off with a guy who has both robotripped and taken c’s (coricidins) quite often… like many others have said it’s very addicting and what’s mroe alarming is most really do believe it’s harmless.. I’ve known this guy for about four years now and he STILL can’t stop. Literally. He doesn’t have the will power to stop on his own and it’s very sad. To see some one you love putting themselves in danger like this is tortorous. He’s had several seizures from Coricidins; because the thing about coricidins is that a lot of that “tripping” effect comes from the brain swelling emmensely- dangerously. and if it swells TOO much it WILL BE FATAL due to lack of blood and oxygen supply… This guy has even been in 8-month in patient rehab for drug abuse and still cannot stay clean. it’s heart breaking to watch and have to be apart of. If you even think some one you know is abusing otc drugs, you need to step up and say something. Knowing what I know now, I wish I had made much greater strides to stop him long ago and wake him up to the real dangers of tripping because this hopeless feeling of being on the ouside looking in is almost too much to bare.. Never turn a blind eye to this sort of thing.

  6. kath Report

    The Robotripping isn’t really new, although it may be wider spread now. I knew a few folks who did it back in the 80’s in Boston. I accidentally drank some of that stuff one time and it was the worst feeling I ever had in my life. I thought I was going to die. My friends had to help me to the car. I could not walk by myself and was barely coherent. They took me to a friends house to sleep it off. The whole time there I was just sitting up with my head up staring at the ceiling, afraid to move and felt so sick. I prayed and prayed for this feeling to pass. Finally many hours later I must have fallen asleep and woke the next morning feeling great. I was all better and thanked God I made it through. Never would do that again. Even the thought of taking it for a cold now bothers me. I don’t see how anyone would do that stuff on purpose. It makes you feel horrible. It was really scary. Just my experience I thought I’d share. Keep your kids away from it.

  7. thatoneguy Report

    I’m a 15 year old boy in high school and happened to run across this page. I have a lot of friends in school that talk about the drugs they’ve done and what not. The thing i noticed most about all of them is that their parents hardly watch any of them and don’t really care what their doing. if people would have watched their kids better they probably could have been able to prevent this from happening to their kids in the first place. Being one of the only kids in my “group” that doesn’t do drugs doesn’t bother me because they are still good people to talk to, they just need help to get them in the right direction…

  8. ihatethis Report

    my 18 year old fiancée has been doing this for a year now. I thought I got him to realize how dumb he was for doing it but now the first day I wasn’t with him because I am visiting my grand mother in the hospital, I call him and I know right away he took cough medicine. this stuff gets you hooked so if you know someone who does it then make them get in the car with you and take them to the hospital! they will not think about doing it again after that!

  9. cooperthree Report

    My son Died 1 year and 10 months ago. He was huffing gas. His friend told me the new thing was cough medicine. I am trying to deal with the loss of my son and want people to know that this is a problem with our kids. We did a show on A&E Intervention in Depth(HUFFING) after his death. It is a bad feeling to be so helpless and not know that we have the problem in our on house. We trust our kids but there is no awareness about inhalents. We talk about don’t do drugs and beer but inhalents we don’t know about. We need to get this out and help our children.

  10. DandyRandy Report

    i’ve never heard it called surping before, but i think thats a reference to sizzurp.

    robotripping is terrible for your brain and can cause mental issues. For instance, i now have sleep paralysis disorder (look it up if your curious) because of robotussin. it messes with your frontal easy way to tell if your child is robotripping: watch the way that they this is only apparent while they are on robo, but they will walk very strangely, or have a hard time walking and balance issues.also, they will keep their eyebrows raised while intoxicated, and their eyes will look very shadowed and sunken in.i hope that this helps you guys out 🙂

  11. xstitcher66 Report

    Just found 2 reciepts in my daughters wallet. One for 2 bottles of Rob. Max, the aother for 3 bottles! They are dated 1 day apart, and of course from 2 different stores.
    She has had prescription drug issues in the past… stole them from me until I learned to put them in a lock box.
    Guess she found a new way and she’s 19!

  12. Still concerned Mom Report

    I recently found out that my 17 year old son had also been using cough medicine. Not only had I missed signs that something had not been right, but before I knew the real situation I helped him cover other “accidents”. He had always been the perfect child and I think once in high school wanted to be popular. Things changed after he got his license. He came home one night and had busted the side view mirror on the car, gave my husband and I a lame excuse and I guess we wanted to believe him. Then he got a citation one night for letting a minor drive, she had not license, this is what I did not tell my husband about at first.

    Less than a month later, he called the house at 4 am to tell us that he had been in a car accident and hit a stump, to use his words. After finding out that he was alright, we were so angry. The car was totaled, he hit a tree and the car had gone through a fence!! Somehow he had crossed all the way to the left side of the road. To this day, he swears he was trying to avoid a drunk driver. Point is, we found empty cold packets in his room, well hidden, we also found some full beer bottles and 2 empty ones. Now he says that he did experiment with the cold medicine. That fence missed his head by about 2″, of course we made him turn in his license. Looking back, I feel stupid, there were signs: him not waking up until 1 in the afternoon, new group of friends, using his paycheck in a day or two, etc…. Parents, please be aware, I almost lost my child in a car accident because of cold medicine, will all of you be so lucky?

  13. william Report

    a few of my friends robotrip and i don’t know why because it makes you sick at first and then you just want to go to sleep so i don’t know why people do it.

  14. Jodie Report

    I just caught my 17 yr old son drinking cough medicine to get high. Apparently he had taken cough medicine pills in the past and I didn’t pick up on it because the high didn’t last as long as the cough syrup high I busted him on. I was so scared and didn’t know what to do for him. My advise to other parents is if you kids eyes are dialated they are quite possibly high on over the counter drugs. Question them, threaten to have them tested for it. Threaten to take them to have blood work done whatever you have to do to get a truthful answer out of them. I knew my son was tripping on something. He kept insisting he was just tired. I kept on till I got the truth. I am glad I didn’t just toss it off as aa teen who had stayed up all night. Now I feel like I have to watch him like a hawk and will for awhile. Its scary stuff these kids are doing.

  15. Elisabeth Wilkins Report

    Terry, When I was researching it online, a lot of articles (including the one I linked to in this post) referred to it as “Robotripping.” But thanks for the update!

  16. Terry Report

    Where did you come up with the name, “robotripping”? The kids are calling it, “surping”. That’s their name for it.



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