Robotrip. What the hell is that? Sounds like a ripoff of a bad 80's movie, doesn't it? Well, according to the Urban Dictionary, it's something much different:
The act of getting high on cough syrup containing Dextromethorophan Hyrdobromide (DXM for short). Robitussin, a popular cough syrup abused, contains DXM, therefore, it is called a "robotrip"
"Last night I robotripped my brain away. I was singing and dancing and eating cookies with Big Bird and his pal Snuffleupagus and then I talked to Edgar Allen Poe for an hour or so. Wow, what a great robotrip."
Ok, wow. Ever get to a point where you realize you're totally "out of the loop?" I'm there right now. Had no idea that Robitussin was an abused substance. But it really is, and it's no laughing matter. Robotripping is a growing phenomenom amongst American youth. According to the Partnership for a drug-free America, over 2 million teens (one in 11) abuse cough medications each year, with the intent of getting high.
According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland (CESAR), DXM taken in high doses can cause powerful psychedelic effects ranging from altered perception of time, space and color to visual hallucination and complete disassociation from one's body. It can also result in, among other things, panic attacks, seizures, comas and, in rare cases, overdose and death.
So here's the deal. It's cheap and easy to get. So guess what? It's going to be abused sooner or later.
How do we deal with this new-fangled epidemic of sorts? Politicians, of course, offer the "solution" of regulation. In 2006, legislators in Maryland submitted a bill to "curb the abuse of cough medicine" by requiring all retailers to put DXM products behind the counter - and limit their availability.
But, why are we always looking at attacking symptoms in this society - instead of the cause? Robotripping is just a symptom of something deeper. It's young people looking to escape from their problems - and and requiring ID's, or prescriptions, or anything else, isn't going to solve this problem. It's just going to mask it until some entrepreneurial spirit out there finds another way to escape.
Escape. That's the issue. It would be hard to argue against the idea that much of our American youth is spending a lot of time escaping. The solution to problems in youth culture today is not about banning, or punishing - it's about understanding. Is it a bad educational system? Broken families? Lack of values? War? Uncertain futures? Whatever the answer - some level of understanding is essential when thinking about the future of our society.
This is just what Michael Franzini set out to do with his new book, 100 Young Americans. Franzini's book is an exploration of youth culture - and counter culture - in America today. He spent six months travelling the entire country - profiling young people from a diverse range of backgrounds.
Diverse might be an understatement, because here is where I learned about 18 year old Parson, from Delaware. It's also where I first heard about robotripping. From the book:
"Parson is one of more than two million US teens who "robotrip." He takes more than a full bottle of Robitussin every day to escape from his angst-filled existence."
Maybe my step here was just the first step. If I never read about Parson, I never would've known about something that he and two million other young adults are doing all the time. Without knowing that, I never would've questioned why either.
In my opinion, the best way to solve problems like robotripping starts from doing just that. Asking why.