Signs and Symptoms of Dextromethorphan Abuse

Dextromethorphan Abuse Signs

Dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant that is available in over-the-counter cough medications. Because it is a legal drug, it can be purchased by anyone, even a preteen, except in California. There, a minor cannot purchase a cough medication containing dextromethorphan (DXM). There is also legislation pending in Alaska on this point. In all other states, any person who wants to achieve the intoxication available from this drug can do so.

If a teen wants to know the results of abusing DXM, or how to abuse it, or even how to separate out the active ingredient from the formulation, this information is all available on the internet. This is a significant reason that parents should monitor teens’ internet usage.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms that result from DXM abuse depend on how much of the medication is taken and whether another drug such as alcohol or marijuana is added to the mix. There are four plateaus of intoxication described by users of DXM.

The first plateau is mild inebriation similar to drunkenness. The second is inebriation plus slurred speech and possibly mild hallucinations. Short-term memory can be impaired by the drug.

The third level is an altered state of consciousness. Vision or other senses may be impaired. And in the fourth state, a person can lose contact with his (or her) body, with all senses shut off. This level of intoxication is similar to that of ketamine or PCP.

The therapeutic dosage for dextromethorphan, when treating a cold or cough, is 10 to 29 milligrams every four hours. But when seeking intoxication, a person may take 250 to 1,500 milligrams of the drug at one time.

The symptoms above may be accompanied by confusion, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fast heartbeat, stomach pain and disorientation.

Physical Signs Resulting from Other Ingredients in Cough Medication

Since dextromethorphan is combined with other ingredients such as acetaminophen, chlorpheniramine and guaifenesin, there can be signs of cough medication abuse that result from these other ingredients. For example, liver damage can result from high dosages of acetaminophen, guaufenesin can cause vomiting, and chlorpheniramine can cause faster heart rate, loss of coordination, seizures and coma.

Some people resort to separating out dextromethorphan from these other ingredients, as mentioned above, using chemicals that are easy to acquire. It is easy to find websites offering to sell pure dextromethorphan powder as well.

Empty Blister Pack

A person abusing DXM may leave behind empty blister packs or empty bottles of cough medication. Vicks, Coricidin, Robitussin and Triaminic formulas all may contain dextromethorphan. A normal drug test will not detect this drug which may encourage its use by some people.

As with any drug, symptoms of an increasing focus or addiction to substances like dextromethorphan include:

  • Changes in appearance or habits
  • Isolation from the family, spending evenings behind a locked bedroom door
  • Evasiveness or secretive behavior
  • Many hours spent away from home without explanation
  • Missing money
  • Changes in appetite
  • Hostility and anger
  • Lying
  • Mood changes without apparent reason
  • Changes in relationships with friends or family
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor coordination
  • Sullen mood or depression
  • Silence, withdrawn periods

Estimates of the number of teens abusing DXM vary from 1 in 10 to 1 in 20. While some sources state that DXM is not addictive, those who have abused the drug have reported that they have cravings for the drug, a definite symptom of addiction.

Leaving DXM Addiction Behind

When a person learns to rely on DXM to escape from his problems, he may need help to leave this lifestyle behind. That help is available at Narconon centers around the world. In this drug rehab program, each participant has the needed guidance to repair the damage done by addiction.

A thorough detoxification followed by counseling and life skills training enable a person in a drug program to see things in a whole new light so they can live an enjoyable, productive life again. This is the way the Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation program works.

Also see Effects of Dextromethorphan Abuse


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