Dextromethorphan (DXM): Abuse & Addiction

Dextromethorphan, or DXM, is the common ingredient in over-the-counter cough suppressants like Robitussin and is the main ingredient in 85%-90% of all medicines containing a cough suppressant sold in the United States every day. DXM is combined with other cold and cough treatments in formulas made up of various decongestants, antihistamines, analgesics, and expectorants.  The drug was approved for use in 1958 as an antitussive and is currently available in the United States without a prescription. When used as directed, the FDA recognizes DXM as safe and effective and it can ease or eliminate coughing for 5 to 6 hours.

Dextromethorphan is an N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist and is a derivative of codeine.  Although it is an opioid, DXM does not trigger the opioid receptors in the brain and therefore is considered to be a safer alternative to codeine with less potential for abuse.  Unfortunately, however, this has not turned out to be the case and DXM has become a heavily abused medication. It is legal, easy to obtain, and readily available, making the “common cold” medicine a favorite drug of choice for teenagers.

Dextromethorphan (DXM): Abuse & Addiction

DXM Abuse Among Young People

In 2006, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) began studying the abuse of DXM-containing over the counter (OTC) medications. The FDA determined that DXM abuse was concentrated among teenagers. The rise of DXM as a popular drug of abuse among teens was fueled by online forums, with teens sharing their experiences while taking the drug. In teen circles, DXM can be called a variety of different terms including Dex, Triple C, Robo Trippin, Tussin, Roboing, Robodosing, Robocopping. The survey found that nearly 6% of 8th-12th grade students had reported using DXM for non-medical purposes.

Those abusing the drug take much higher than over the counter doses, which is extremely unsafe and dangerous.  The typical dose of DXM, when taken as directed, is 10 to 20 mg every four to six hours or 30 mg every six to eight hours. The dose when trying to reach the “high” ranges from 250 to 1500 mg.  Those abusing the drug can take several bottles in one day. The effects of taking far more than the recommended dose are similar to those caused by ketamine or PCP. High doses of DXM lead to psychoactive effects, eliciting euphoria and dysphoria, visual hallucinations, loss of motor skills, dissociative sedation, nausea, and vomiting.

Dangerous Dextromethorphan Side Effects

DXM abuse can lead to long term side effects, potential overdose, and addiction. There is a risk for overdose when purposefully taking higher than recommended dosages of the drug. Symptoms of a DXM overdose include blurry vision, seizures, hallucinations, muscle twitches, irregular heart rate, coma, and even death. In addition to the dangers of DXM itself, many users experience life-threatening side effects due to the other ingredients in cough medicine, like acetaminophen.

This is extremely dangerous and can cause liver damage, heart attack, stroke, and death. DXM can also be found on the internet being sold as a powder, capsule, and pill form. These can be ingested orally or snorted. After prolonged use of DXM, the addict will experience withdrawal when trying to stop.  There are many withdrawal symptoms, but the most common are anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, and severe weight loss.

Allure Detox Can Help With DXM Addiction

According to the National Institute of Health, DXM is an easily available, typically inexpensive, over the counter medication with abuse potential. Physicians should be aware of the psychiatric presentation of DXM abuse. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to DXM or similar substances, it is important to reach out to qualified professionals who specialize in addiction treatment.

Allure Detox provides a safe and comfortable environment to address the physical withdrawals as well as prepare the addict for long term recovery. Allure Detox in West Palm Beach is a safe and peaceful environment with professional and caring staff. Reach out to us today for a confidential consultation with an addiction specialist.