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Teen Dextromethorphan (DXM) Abuse

The dangers of abusing this drug reach far beyond hallucinations and seizures — some teens have died after overdosing on this drug.

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3 min read

Is DXM Dangerous?

When ingested in large quantities, the cough suppressant dextromethorphan (DXM) can deliver a powerful buzz. One in 10 American teenagers has used DXM to get high, a practice also known as “robotripping.” But abusing the drug can be fatal.

While cough syrup is among the most popular drugs at music festivals and raves, the medicine is also available as both prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs at local pharmacies, grocery stores and convenience stores. Teens abuse cough syrup because it’s easily available and legal — factors that invite a semblance of safety. And when teens believe that they are safe from harm, their substance abuse grows even more perilous.

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DXM Effects

A dextromethorphan high could be described as euphoric and relaxing. Its dissociative effects prompt some teens to use DXM for anxiety relief in unfamiliar social situations. Many teens mix DXM-containing cough syrup with alcohol or other drugs — such as weed or opioids — in order to intensify the effect. Such concoctions only increase the dangers of dextromethorphan abuse.

When abused in large doses, DXM can cause the following:

  • Confusion or dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased heart rate
  • Impaired vision
  • Seizures
  • Loss of motor skills

More serious cases of DXM abuse can lead to memory loss, permanent brain damage, and even death by overdose.

Serotonin syndrome is also a likely result of abusing the drug. This occurs when the body is flooded with an overabundance of the brain chemical serotonin. Pharmacist Dr. Andrew Pasky says, “Serotonin syndrome is generally characterized by a sharp increase in heart rate and excessive sweating, extreme anxiety. It’s considered a life-threatening emergency.”

Is Dextromethorphan Addictive?

Dextromethorphan can be highly addictive when abused. While the drug doesn’t necessarily cause major physical dependence, it can cause emotional dependence.

“If you’re abusing DXM, you’re a danger to yourself and others.”

Andrew PaskyPharm.D.

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What is DXM?

Dextromethorphan impacts the part of the brain that causes cold- or flu-related coughing, signaling it to stop. Though the drug is often found as a liquid, DXM pills are sold as well. Since it is an ingredient in a number of cold, flu and cough medicines, it is often sold in combination with antihistamines, pain relievers and decongestants.

This drug is usually safe when taken according to the manufacturer’s instructions. That is, medicinal users must follow proper dosage and only take DXM for pain relief due to coughing, and as a sleep aid.

You may hear your teen refer to this drug by other slang terms. Popular DXM street names include:

  • Purple drank
  • Lean
  • Sizzurp
  • Double cup
  • Skittles
  • Orange crush
  • Dex
  • Triple Cs
  • Red devils

Symptoms of Cough Syrup Addiction

Many signs of drug addiction — such as changes in personality, appearance or academic performance — are consistent, regardless of the drug at hand. However, there are a few key warnings that specifically point towards a dextromethorphan addiction:

  • Lots of empty cough medicine containers in your teen’s trash
  • Online cough medicine orders
  • Medicinal smells in your teen’s room
  • Internet searches about getting high on DXM
  • Use of DXM nicknames

“Make sure there’s no DXM or cough syrup sitting around. Look out if your teen has cough syrup. That’s a red flag on its own — no teen should have it for no reason. Also be aware of symptoms like lethargy during the day, and behavioral abnormalities such as mood swings or aggression.”

Pharm.D.

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Does Your Child Need DXM Addiction Treatment?

If you see signs that your teen has engaged in dextromethorphan abuse, now is the time to step in. Too many times, parents brush off their child’s drug abuse as normal teen behavior. But by the time that addiction takes root, intensive drug treatment is often needed. This cannot go on any longer — and your child needs your help to climb out of this situation.

At TeenRehabCenter.org, we are here to guide you as you seek to fix this situation. Whether your teen’s substance abuse has been a struggle for a long time, or if you are just beginning to notice signs, we understand that many parents prolong seeking help because of the stigma of addiction or rehab. We’re here to help.

Talk to us to find out about drug rehab insurance coverage options that may be available under your family’s plan. We’ve expertly guided many families through this process before — let us help you, too. We will walk alongside you in this journey towards healing.

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