DXM: Dextromethorphan – Side Effects – Risks – Abuse – Addiction

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Dextromethorphan (DXM) is the active ingredient in many cough suppressants in a variety of over-the-counter nonprescription cough remedies such as Vicks, Robitussin and TheraFlu.

Originally created as a non-addictive alternative to codeine by the CIA and Navy in the 50s, dextromethorphan (DXM) received FDA approval for use in over-the-counter medications in 1958. Today DXM continues to be sold in liquid, capsule, spray and tablet form.

DXM Abuse – Using DXM Recreationally

DXM is a morphinan class drug with stimulant, sedative and dissociative properties when it is abused,. Dextromethorphan is now considered to be a recreational drug, due to its ability to induce perceptual distortions, hallucinations and hyperactivity when taken at higher doses.

DXM Side Effects

In addition to suppressing activity in the brain area controlling cough reflexes, DXM may cause the following side effects when taken in recommended doses:

  • Nausea
  • vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness/sedation
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety

DXM Abuse 3 – 9 Times Dosage

When DXM is consumed at three to nine times the recommended dose, abusers of DXM will experience some or all of the following side effects:

  • Euphoria
  • Increased self-confidence/motivation/energy
  • Restlessness
  • anxiety
  • mild agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Problems with short-term memory
  • Rapid speech/irrational flow of ideas
  • Glassy eyes/dilated pupils
  • Reduced appetite
  • Sweating

DXM Abuse – 15 Times Dosage

People who take 15 times or more the recommended dosage will experience some or all of the following serious side effects:

  • Hallucinate both visually and auditorily
  • Vomit repeatedly
  • Have double and blurry vision, extremely bloodshot eyes – some abusers may even lose vision temporarily
  • Experience depersonalization or dissociation (psychotic break from reality)
  • Perspire profusely
  • Grind their teeth
  • Suffer tachycardia, chest pains, hypertension
  • Black out or lose consciousness

Overdose Warning

  • Overdosing on dextromethorphan leads to a dangerous, altered state of consciousness similar to the state experienced by people on PCP or ketamine.

People who have taken 750 to 1500 milligrams of cough medicine (normal dose is 10 to 25 milligrams) containing DXM may imagine they are invincible or possess superhuman powers, causing them to do things that could harm them like jumping off buildings or driving too fast on curvy roads.

Issues with DXM Abuse

ManyDextromethorphan (DXM) cough suppressants also contain acetaminophen, guaifenesin or chlorpheniramine for reducing fever and relieving muscle and joint aches related to colds and flu. DXM addicts could suffer permanent liver damage, seizures or even coma due to overdosing on these other ingredients.

  • Combining DXM and these additional substances with alcohol, marijuana or other drugs may cause signs of impending overdose such as reduced heart rate, slowed breathing and dangerously low blood pressure.

The Addictive Properties of DXM

Although research regarding DXM addictive properties is scant, what research exists indicates people abusing DXM can become physically and psychologically addicted to DXM products and their opioid-like effects. Its over excites dopamine  receptors in the brain.

  • DXM addicts may suffer intense withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, nausea, fever, chills and strong cravings

DXM Abuse by Teenagers

Most stores in all 50 states will not sell OTC medications containing DXM to teens under 18. Larger chain department stores like Walmart will always ask for identification when a young adult tries to purchase DXM cough suppressants. However, smaller pharmacies and grocery stores are less inclined to ID teens.

  • In fact, recent studies show that 10 percent of adolescents in the U.S. have probably abused Dextromethorphan (DXM) for the purpose of getting high.
  • This means Dextromethorphan (DXM) is abused by teens more than Ecstasy, cocaine or crystal methamphetamine.



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