KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Thefts of the cough suppressant Mucinex are an emerging drug trend in the U.S.
There have been recent reports of the popular cold medicine being stolen in South Carolina, Virginia and even here in Tennessee.
"If there is a will there is a way," said Lara Dennison, the pharmacist at Belew Drugs in Knoxville. "People find a way to abuse anything in my experience."
Dennison says they have not had any problems with people stealing Mucinex at their store, but they do keep it behind the counter because it's a high-priced item.
So what makes Mucinex attractive to drug abusers? "Dextromethorphan, it's an ingredient in the Mucinex DM, not the regular Mucinex," Dennison explained.
Dextromethorphan can be found in other cold medications, and is sometimes referred to as DXM.
Dennison says this ingredient in large quantities can cause people to get high.
"Mucinex is a 12-hour time released medication and of course if you break it up and basically break up that tablet, you're going to have the full effect of the 12-hour effect immediately," said Karen Pershing, executive director of the Metropolitan Drug Commission in Knoxville.
Pershing says abuse of Mucinex is not common, but she's not surprised people are using it.
"They think it's safe because it's available over the counter," said Pershing. "As with any drug if it's prescribed by a doctor or bought over the counter, if you don't use it as directed it can be as dangerous as an illegal drug."
Both women say they hope people will see the dangers of abusing any type of medication.
The Knox County Sheriff's Office hasn't had any reports of Mucinex thefts, but there have been recent thefts in the Tri-Cities.