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Can Nyquil Be Abused?


NyQuil pills

Yes: Nyquil can be abused. Nyquil Cold & Flu is a combination of medicines: acetaminophen, dextromethorphan and doxylamine. According to it is “used to treat headache, fever, body aches, cough, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat caused by allergies, the common cold, or the flu…it will not treat a cough that is caused by smoking, asthma, or emphysema.” When used as directed, Nyquil can be highly effective and safe, with nominal side effects. However, when abused and/ or taken in large amounts it can lead to distorted awareness, altered perceptions of time and hallucinations. The abuse of cough syrup, including Nyquil, has been a growing problem in America for decades.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of an adolescent abusing Nyquil will vary, as they are entirely dependent upon the individual. Common examples of signs exhibited and symptoms presented in a teen abusing Nyquil could include any combination of the following, provided by Stanford Children’s Health:

  • Poor coordination
  • Socially and emotionally withdrawn
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Secretive and/ or evasive behavior
  • Appearance changes
  • Diminished personal hygiene practices
  • Hostility
  • Aggression
  • Deceptive behaviors
  • Shifts in appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Changes in relationships with friends and/ or family

It is not uncommon for teenagers to abuse Nyquil, as its use cannot be detected with standard drug tests. 

Side Effects

There are several possible side effects that can occur as a result of Nyquil abuse. Some examples provided by the Mayo Clinic include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Impaired judgment
  • Hot flashes
  • Lethargy
  • Slurred speech
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Panic attacks
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Rash
  • Confusion 
  • Slowed breathing
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Hallucinations 
  • Paranoia 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) asserts that due to the fact that an active ingredient of Nyquil is dextromethorphan, persistent abuse can lead to:

  • Brain damage and damage to other organs due to hypoxia (decreased oxygen to the brain) 
  • Liver damage when taken in conjunction with acetaminophen
  • An excess buildup of acid is the body fluids
  • Substance use disorder
  • Respiratory complications associated with chronically decreased breathing rates

The severity and duration of the side effects will depend on the teen’s personal health history, how long he or she has been abusing Nyquil, the amount and frequency of Nyquil abused, as well as if he or she simultaneously abused additional substances. There are a variety of treatment options available for an adolescent struggling with Nyquil abuse. If left untreated, habitual abuse of Nyquil can result in severe long-term consequences.

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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