Dextromethorphan, also known as DXM or DM, is an active ingredient in many cough and cold medicines and is used as a cough suppressant. When taken as prescribed, it is safe, not habit-forming, and is effective, but taking it in large doses can produce side effects that are psychedelic in nature.
DXM is a legal drug that can be purchased by anyone, including preteens in most states. Over-the-counter medications, such as Vicks, Robitussin, and NyQuil contain DXM and are used to relieve a cold-related cough. Many people abuse medications containing DXM to get high and as a result, develop an addiction. A normal drug test will not detect the drug, which encourages more people to use it.
Why is DXM so Widely Abused
DXM is known by numerous street names including skittles, robo, dex, and triple C. It can be misused by either ingesting large doses or taking it an alternative way, such as snorting or injecting it. Most commonly, it is mixed into drinks for consumption. Because it can be obtained easily and used to treat common illnesses, many people underestimate the dangers of misusing the drug.
Morgan Griffin wrote an article on teens and DXM drug abuse for WebMD and stated, “A 2008 study found that one in 10 American teenagers has abused products with DXM to get high, making it more popular in that age group than cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, and meth. Although DXM products are quite safe when taken as recommended, high doses can cause hallucinogenic trips — and pose serious risks.”
Teens are very susceptible to addiction, especially when they experiment with drugs or alcohol. Substance addiction causes harmful effects on the teen’s brain, which does not finish developing and growing until he or she is their lower to mid-twenties.
Teens are impulsive and often do not consider the consequences of their actions. DXM abuse affects critical thinking, awareness, coordination, movement, and speech, as with most substances heightens reckless behavior and results in organ failure, overdose, or early death.
Symptoms of DXM Abuse
Being high on DXM is often referred to as “robotripping”. It causes numerous physical and psychological side effects that can range in severity depending on the amount used. While it can produce mild euphoria, DXM is a hallucinogen that often causes those under the influence to experience intense hallucinations and paranoia.
Some of the most common symptoms of DXM abuse include:
- Double vision
- Involuntary movements
- Numbness in fingers and toes
- Difficulty speaking
- Feeling detached from their body
The hallucinations a person experiences can cause violent behaviors to occur. Vivid nightmares, disassociation, and delusions can lead to assault or suicide. The higher the dosage, the more intense the symptoms become. In extreme cases, a person may experience toxic psychosis in which they lose contact with reality. They may be unable to recognize the environment around them and be unable to communicate with those around them.
The severity of trips on DXM vary from person to person. In addition to the dosage, a person’s metabolism, weight, and history of abuse can all play a role in the duration and severity of side effects.
You Can Overdose on DXM
It is possible to overdose DXM which can lead to life-threatening symptoms and even death. Symptoms of an overdose include:
- Blurred vision
- Bluish lips and fingernails
- High or low blood pressure
The Effects of Long-Term DXM Abuse
Long-term abuse of DXM can lead to serious illness or death. In many cases, this is not due to the substance DXM by itself, rather, the combination of medications a person may use to achieve new highs. Mixing medications and substances can cause a wide variety of outcomes that may not be anticipated. Abuse of DXM with other medications can cause:
- Liver failure
- Respiratory depression
Long-term abuse of DXM can also cause a person to experience withdrawal symptoms should they suddenly cease use. Symptoms can range in severity depending on the duration of use and the amount used. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Panic attacks
- Intense cravings
- Memory problems
In some cases, a person who has abused large amounts of DXM for a long period of time can experience toxic psychosis or permanent psychological issues when use suddenly stops. Because of the risks involved, it is recommended that a medical detox take place rather than attempting to withdraw alone.
Recovery from DXM Addiction
Addiction is treatable and recovery is possible. Understand the signs of substance abuse and get help if you suspect your teen is abusing substances. There may be an underlying mental health disorder contributing to your teen’s self-destructive behavior. Nexus Recovery Services provides treatment for a dual diagnosis.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.