Degree Level



Biological Science

First Advisor

Boies, Lori

Second Advisor

Langston, Camille



LCSH subject

Dextromethorphan; Recreational drug use; Recreational marijuana use


Over-the-counter medicines such as cold and cough medications may be abused as an accessible alternative to other recreational drugs in order to obtain a desired ‘high.’ A lack of literature is currently present, with few studies specifically observing simultaneous drug use and cold and/or cough medicine abuse. Using publicly available data from the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the researcher sought to help bridge this gap in knowledge by identifying any risk factor relationship that could exist between cold medicine abuse and commonly used recreational drugs. The observed frequency of recreational drug use (marijuana, phencyclidine, ecstasy, ketamine) was compared against the frequency of cold/cough medicine abuse. Usage frequencies were categorized into “Past-Year,” “Prior-to-Past-Year,” and “Ever.” This study demonstrates, a statistically significant correlation exists between the use of recreational drugs and the abuse of cold/cough medicines. Despite strong evidence which suggests correlation (p<0.01) between the two, unaccounted confounders for each drug may diminish the strength of this correlation in comparison. Among individuals who have misused cold medicine at some point, a higher relative proportion of respondents were found to have also at some point used marijuana. Upon further analysis using a logistic regression, historical cold medicine abuse was found to increase the odds of marijuana abuse by a factor of 1.2 holding all other variables constant. Based on these results, a focused study on the abuse of cold medicine and use of marijuana may be of interest. Ideally, such a study would consider frequency of drug use and other factors that are not explored in-depth within the NSDUH survey.

Publication Date

Spring 2024

Document Type