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Substance Abuse - DXM

Commonly Known As: ingredient found in over the counter cough and cold suppressants. There are over 100 common cough and cold remedies on the market containing DXM. Also sold in pill form as pure DXM in Mexico. Brand names of over the counter medications include Robitussin, Coricidin, Vick’s.

Access to Drug: Can be bought wherever cough suppressants are sold. Also sold at raves, parties, and on the streets in homemade gel caps from home remedies extracted from the over the counter medications by users.

Scientific Name: Dextromethorphan Hydrobromide, DXM HBr, which is in a class of drugs known as dissociative anaesthetics.

Interesting Facts: DXM replaced codeine and other opiates in over the counter cough suppressants in the 60’s due to the number of people who were abusing the medications. It is currently legal as an active ingredient in cough suppressants and widely abused by adolescents due to the easy accessibility of the ingredient through cough syrups. Trying to obtain a DXM high through over the counter medications is extremely dangerous because of other ingredients in the cough syrups such as Acetaminophen, which can cause liver damage, heart attack, strokes, or even death. It is also suspected that DXM in “pure” form has resulted in brain lesions among users. DXM abuse is still under investigation.

Methods of Use: Most common use is by drinking cough syrup such as Robitussin Maximum Strength Cough Syrup and Vick’s 44 Cough Syrup. There are home methods of extracting DXM from pills and then placing the powder in gel caps, however, there have been documented deaths resulting from people abusing Coricidin, either by taking the extracted DXM, or over dosing on Coricidin pills. Extracted DXM is sometimes mixed with MDMA, or “special K” in home made gel caps to produce an intense experience.

Common Effects When Intoxicated: Effects depend on the level of dosage and tolerance. Low doses produce effects similar to alcohol with carefree clumsiness, mood shift, and a state of euphoria. Higher doses tend to produce impaired judgment and mental performance, hallucinations coupled with sweating, racing heart rate, and feelings of dissociation from the body. Someone under the influence may also experience itching, red blotchy skin, vomiting, and dizziness.

Duration of Intoxication: The typical high is about 4 to 8 hours, depending on body weight and how the DXM is obtained. OTC medications last about 4 hours with purer forms of DXM producing a longer high.

Withdrawal: The level of withdrawal depends on the frequency of use. Some will experience some anxiety and upset stomach while regular users of DXM report withdrawal similar to heroin with runny nose, diarrhea, headache, flu-like symptoms and weight loss.

Effects of Long Term Use: Brain lesions, depression, panic attacks, psychotic breaks, liver, kidney, and pancreas damage, loss of muscle control due to weight loss, seizure disorder, Serotonin Syndrome.

Abuse, Dependence, and Addiction: Widely abused because of the easy accessibility of DXM, however, the side effects of the experience are reported to be uncomfortable and often times abuse will not lead to addiction.

Associated Risks: DXM abuse is extremely dangerous due to other active ingredients in the cough suppressants which cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other life threatening symptoms. DXM also will exaggerate any symptoms of mental illness and has resulted in death by users taking DXM with anti-depressants.