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Tussionex Abuse

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Tussionex is a prescription medication that includes a combination of chlorpheniramine, an antihistamine1, and the opioid painkiller hydrocodone. It is prescribed to treat respiratory symptoms, such as coughs, related to allergies or colds 1. Chlorpheniramine relieves allergies and prevents fluid buildup in the respiratory tract 2. Hydrocodone is a narcotic medication that suppresses coughing and relieves pain; it belongs to a class of drugs known as opioids 2, which includes serious drugs of abuse like heroin as well as various prescription painkillers.

Hydrocodone can produce euphoria or feelings of well-being and can lead to dependence if taken for an extended period of time 1,2. If someone misuses or abuses Tussionex, it can increase the likelihood of addiction and harmful effects.

Tussionex Abuse

When taken under the supervision of a doctor, and exactly as prescribed, Tussionex can be a highly effective medication. However, Tussionex can be misused and abused in various ways, including:

  • Taking it without a prescription.
  • Taking a larger dose than prescribed.
  • Taking it more frequently than prescribed.
  • Taking it for a longer period than prescribed.

If extended release tablets are prescribed (under the brand name TussiCaps), they may be abused via crushing, chewing, breaking, or snorting the crushed pills. People may misuse or abuse Tussionex for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • For the pleasurable feelings or “high.”
  • For relief of chronic pain.
  • To help them relax.
  • To initiate sleep.

Tussionex abuse can have severe consequences, including an increased risk of addiction, physical and mental health effects, overdose, and death.

Signs and Symptoms of Abuse

There are some signs and symptoms you should look out for if you suspect that someone is abusing Tussionex. These can be both physical and behavioral. Some physical signs of hydrocodone and chlorpheniramine abuse or intoxication may include 1,2,3,4,5,6:

  • Anxiety.
  • Agitation.
  • Confusion.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Fever.
  • Constipation.
  • Constricted pupils.
  • Dizziness.
  • Dry throat.

  • Euphoric mood.
  • Impaired thought or judgment.
  • Coordination problems.
  • Itching.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Shallow breathing.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Slurred speech.

Opioid Use Disorders

Because of the hydrocodone portion of this combination drug, problematic Tussionex abuse can be classified as an opioid use disorder, and can range from mild to severe. The behavioral indicators that an individual is struggling with an addiction may include 4:

  • Taking more Tussionex than prescribed, taking it for longer than prescribed, or running out early.
  • Failing to cut down or control one’s use of the drug.
  • Spending long stretches of time using Tussionex, recovering from its effects, or obtaining more.
  • Experiencing strong cravings to use it.
  • Failing to fulfill responsibilities at work, home, or school due to Tussionex use.
  • Continuing to use it even after experiencing negative interpersonal, psychological, or physical consequences.
  • Choosing Tussionex use over hobbies or recreational activities.
  • Usingit in situations that can be physically dangerous, such as before or while driving.
  • Developing a tolerance, or requiring more of the drug to achieve the desired effect or high.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when Tussionex use is suddenly stopped or decreased.

If you or a loved one may be abusing Tussionex, please call our confidential helpline at . Rehab advisors are available to answer any questions you may have, and can help you find appropriate treatment.

Long-Term Effects of Abuse

Over time, Tussionex abuse can have many harmful effects on the mind and body. Long-term use can lead to the following:

Woman suffering with Tussionex addiction
  • Increased drug tolerance: Repeated Tussionex abuse causes chemical changes in the brain as it adapts to the presence of the drug. An individual who has developed tolerance to the drug requires increasing doses to feel the desired effects.
  • Developed dependence: Tussionex dependence occurs when the body can only function normally when the person has used the drug. Someone who is dependent on Tussionex is likely to experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when use is reduced or stopped.
  • Addiction: Addiction is almost always accompanied by dependence but the two differ in that addiction is a complex and progressive condition characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behaviors. An individual who is addicted to Tussionex continues to use the drug despite negative consequences.
  • Overdose: Once tolerance builds and the user requires more Tussionex to experience a high, the risk of overdose and death increases due to respiratory depression caused by the drug.

Since Tussionex contains hydrocodone – an opioid with respiratory depressant effects – chronic abuse can result in brain damage due to respiratory arrest and resultant oxygen deprivation 7. When the brain is repeatedly deprived of oxygen, it can cause both psychological and neurological effects 7. Additionally, studies suggest that long-term opioid use can cause deterioration of the brain’s white matter 7. The white matter affects a person’s ability to regulate behavior, manage stress, and make decisions 6. Other potential long-term effects of Tussionex or Tussicaps abuse include 2:

  • Irregular menses in women.
  • Sexual dysfunction.
  • Severe constipation.

There are a number of possible intranasal and intravenous effects, which can result from crushing and snorting or injecting TussiCaps. These long-term effects may include the following, depending on the mode of administration:

Man with symptoms of intranasal and intravenous Tussionex effects
  • Nasal bleeding.
  • Perforation of nasal septum.
  • Irritation of nasal lining.
  • Track lines or puncture marks.
  • Peripheral edema.
  • Abscesses.
  • Tuberculosis.
  • Cellulitis.
  • HIV or Hepatitis.
  • Infection of the heart lining.

Chronic drug abuse or addiction of any type has its own consequences, regardless of the substance. Over time, acquiring and using Tussionex takes priority over other responsibilities. This can lead to poor performance at work, school, or home, including lateness or excessive absence. Addictions affect social relationships, and can contribute to the loss of close friends, strained relationships with family members, divorce, and child neglect.

Tussionex doesn’t have to control your life. Call our helpline at to get help today. A compassionate, confidential support specialist will assist you in finding a recovery center.


It is possible to overdose on Tussionex. There are warning signs of an overdose that should not be ignored, as untreated overdose can lead to death. Tussionex, especially when ingested in larger quantities or more frequently than prescribed, can cause respiratory depression, meaning that the area of the brain that controls breathing is suppressed 1.

Signs and symptoms of a Tussionex overdose can include 1,2,3,5:

  • Blue or pale lips, skin, or fingernails.
  • Cold or clammy skin.
  • Confusion.
  • Extreme lethargy or sleepiness.
  • Fainting.
  • Irregular, fast, or slow breathing.

  • Labored or shallow breathing.
  • Pinpoint pupils.
  • Seizures.
  • Coma.
  • Delirium.
  • Psychosis.

Since Tussionex is an extended release formulation, an overdose is more likely if the medication is taken improperly. Mixing the syrup with other liquids can change how rapidly the medication is released into the body, along with breaking, chewing, or crushing TussiCaps pills 1. Combining Tussionex with other depressants, including alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines, or sedatives, can increase the risk of respiratory depression and death 1.

In the event of an overdose, it is important to get help immediately. The potentially deadly effects of a Tussionex overdose can be reversed with immediate treatment. Call 911 if you suspect someone has overdosed on Tussionex. Paramedics can treat the individual with oxygen and medications that can rapidly reverse the effects of hydrocodone, although the person will likely need to be monitored to prevent a recurrence of symptoms once the medication wears off.

Tussionex Statistics

Other issues related to prescription drug abuse like Tussionex

Opioid use has reached epidemic proportions in recent years, and Tussionex falls under this umbrella. While statistics on its use are not currently specifically monitored, the opioid painkiller statistics are alarming.

  • In 2014, 21.5 million Americans aged 12 or older met the criteria for a substance use disorder 8.
  • Of those, 1.9 million were due to prescription painkillers 8.
  • In 2012, nearly 260 million prescriptions were written for painkillers 8.
  • The primary cause of accidental death in the United States is drug overdose, with prescription painkillers causing nearly 20,000 overdose deaths in 2014 8.

If you or someone you know struggles with Tussionex abuse, call our confidential helpline at . Our counselors can help you get the most effective treatment for Tussionex addiction, and get you started on the road to recovery.

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Leah Miller earned a certificate in chemical dependency counseling from Suffolk County Community College and her Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Hofstra University. Leah began working with substance use disorders through an internship and saw the need for integrated treatment for dually diagnosed clients. Through schooling and beyond, Leah has worked with people with substance use disorders as well as severe mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders. Leah also works with families of clients to educate them about the diagnosis of their loved ones and how to help them work towards recovery. Through her work with American Addiction Centers, Leah strives to educate the public and reduce the stigma surrounding substance use disorders and mental illness.
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