What Is DXM?

Dextromethorphan (DXM) is a cough suppressant found in many cold medicines, often bundled with painkillers (like acetaminophen), antihistamines (like diphenhydramine), decongestants (like pseudoephedrine), and/or expectorants (like guaifenesin). Although it can be used safely as recommended by a doctor in amounts of 15-30 mg taken three to four times daily, abuse of DXM involves taking high doses of the drug in order to feel its mind-altering effects.

Since drinking a large dose of cough syrup tastes unpleasant, DXM abusers often prefer to take tablets or capsules containing DXM, which are easy to swallow and flavorless. Street names for the drug include “Dex,” “Robo,” and “Skittles,” while use of the drug is called “robotripping” or “skittling.”

Recreational doses can be as high as 250 mg to 1,500 mg. The effects of doses appear to work in plateaus of effects, as described by the Drug Enforcement Administration:

  • Plateau 1 (100 to 200 mg): Minor stimulation
  • Plateau 2 (200 to 400 mg): Ecstasy and hallucinations
  • Plateau 3 (300 to 600 mg): Inaccurate visual perceptions and loss of motor dexterity
  • Plateau 4 (500 to 1,500 mg): Dissociation; feelings of one’s body or the world being unreal

DXM is a dissociative anesthetic, placing it into the same category as PCP and ketamine, all of which interfere with NMDA receptors in the brain.

This means it can cause unreal, out-of-body sensations. Other effects of DXM can include:

  • Confusion
  • Agitation or paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Altered perception of time
  • Feels of dissociation, derealization, or depersonalization
  • Euphoria
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • High blood pressure
  • Sweating

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), as of 2006, about 3.1 million Americans (5.3 percent) ages 12 to 25 had used cough medicine to get high, and nearly one million (1.7 percent) had done so in the past year. Over 66 percent of this medicine was NyQuil, Coricidin, and Robitussin products. Of the people who had used DXM to get high, 82 percent also used marijuana regularly, and nearly half used hallucinogens or inhalants regularly.

What Are the Risks of DXM?

Using SSRI or MAOI antidepressants in combination with DXM can trigger serotonin syndrome, so users of these drugs should not take DXM in recreational doses. DXM can also interact dangerously with alcohol. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, about five to 10 percent of Caucasians do not metabolize DXM properly and are at higher risk for overdose.

The DEA also reports that the American Association of Poison Control Centers saw 45,748 mentions and six deaths related to DXM. About 6,000 DXM abusers wind up in emergency departments each year.

In addition to DXM-caused problems, the other ingredients in cough syrup also pose a risk. High doses of guaifenesin, for example, can cause nausea and vomiting. The real danger comes from acetaminophen, which at high doses can cause liver damage and failure. Consumer Reports state that almost 80,000 people make emergency department visits each year due to acetaminophen-related complications.

Is DXM Addictive?

When abused, DXM can be addictive. High-dose chronic use of DXM can lead to the development of tolerance and dependence. DXM abusers may experience insomnia and depressed mood. High enough doses for long enough can cause toxic psychosis, where the person loses touch with reality. If the user quits DXM abruptly, withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Upset stomach

Treating DXM Addiction

Getting hooked on cough syrup is a serious issue, and we want to help you recover as soon as possible. At Skywood Recovery, our skilled professionals are ready to help you through detox, with the help of consulting physicians, and into customized therapies to enable you to kick the unhealthy lifestyle habits that led you to abuse DXM in the first place. We’ll work with you to build new skills to take on daily and major stresses without turning to drugs.

With proper help and support, you can say goodbye to DXM abuse as well as abuse of alcohol and other drugs. Since substance abuse often co-occurs with other mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, or learning disabilities, we also offer dual diagnosis treatment to effectively address multiple issues simultaneously, offering you the best chance at a sustained recovery.

Don’t let another day pass by in the haze of DMX abuse. Instead, pick up the phone and choose to talk with one of our admissions coordinators today at 269-280-4673. We can help you take the first, all-important step on a journey to recovery and a better future.