Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title



The purpose of this study was in part to raise awareness of over-the-counter and prescription medication abuse in young adults over the age of 17. Students were asked to take an anonymous survey that asked if they were aware of the ingredients and side effects of certain cough medicines and if they have taken any to become “high” or sleep, and if they were familiar with the term “purple drank”. The most commonly used cough medicines listed in the survey was Robitussin, Day/Nyquil, and Mucinex. An interesting finding was that 71% of the students were familiar with the term “purple drank”. Next, different brands of cough syrups (Robitussin, Theraflu, Day/Nyquil, Mucinex, and Delsym) were tested through gel electrophoresis in order to investigate dye separation. In addition, a prescription medication called Codeine, was also tested. In the third gel test, separation of the different dyes in Delsym and Mucinex was obvious and most successful. Pyronin red and xylene cyanol was added as controls. The dyes in Robitussin, Theraflu, and Day/Nyquil flowed to the positively charged electrode at the same rate. Mucinex and Delsym both separated into two distinct dyes bands and moved slower than the other syrups towards the positively charged electrode at the same rate. Addition of the Codeine tablet to all cough syrups caused colors that are more vibrant and separation was even clearer. FD&C Blue No. 1 and FD&C red No. 40 were the two main types of dyes present in the syrups. Lastly, the solubility of Ibuprofen, Aleve, Aspirin, Excedrin, Tylenol, and Methocarbamol in water, ethanol, hexane, HCl, and Iron III Nitrate was tested. Forensic drug chemistry is a very important tool used in the identification of illegal substances within the criminal justice system. Each analgesic has a chemical signature, or set of characteristics that is unique to only that substance. These characteristics lend to identification of substances using methods that other chemists can replicate and thus are presentable as fact in criminal investigations.

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