Effects of Dextromethorphan Abuse

teen taking cough medicine from cabinet

Most of the people abusing dextromethorphan or DXM are young people, in part because it is legally available in many states to anyone of any age. As of 2017 there were 14 states which have passed legislation that cold medication containing dextromethorphan can’t be sold to minors.

There are three kinds of effects that one can see when a person abuses dextromethorphan. There’s the kind of effects that the drug itself brings about, there are the effects that are caused by the other ingredients commonly found in these formulas, and there are the effects of an addictive lifestyle on one’s behavior and personality.

Parents and others who supervise teens should be alert to notice any of the following effects of Dextromethorphan abuse:

  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Dizziness or loss of coordination
  • Stomach spasms
  • Drowsiness
  • Slow, labored breathing
  • Muscle twitches
  • Vomiting
  • Intoxication symptoms such as slurred speech
  • Fast heart rate
  • Loss of sense perceptions
  • Loss of memory
  • Inability to focus
  • Rashes
  • Itchy skin
  • Numb extremities

Other ingredients common to cough medication - acetaminophen, guaufenesin, or chlorpheniramine:

  • Liver damage or failure
  • Loss of coordination
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Speeded heart rate

Effects of addictive lifestyle, especially for young people:

  • Depression, negative moods
  • Staying away from former friends who are sober
  • Avoiding family members
  • Changes in activities, abandoning former hobbies or clubs
  • Hiding out in his (or her) room with the door locked
  • Antagonism and secretive behavior
  • Lower grades
  • Behavior problems in school
sullen teen under influence of dextromethorphan

By watching for any of these effects, a parent or other loved one can get clues as to a change from a sober lifestyle to a drug-using one. But if drug abuse has continued for an extended time, a person may not be able to stop using those drugs when they want to.

Addiction exists when a person is driven to abuse a substance because of cravings, and when they will experience withdrawal symptoms when they quit using the drug. Tolerance is another effect created by addiction - this means that it takes more and more of the drug to create the effect the drug user desires.

Death is Not a Common Effect of Dextromethorphan

It is hard to overdose on this drug because a big enough dose to kill normally causes vomiting that eliminates the drug from the system before it can be absorbed. Deaths that involve DXM either result from a mix of DXM and other drugs or from an accident or injury related to the drug use. For example, a fourteen-year-old Colorado boy was killed when he tried to cross a highway while high on DXM. It was thought that his perceptions of how fast the cars were going may have been damaged by the drug.

Formulations that Contain Dextromethorphan:

  • Robitussin DM
  • Rondec DM
  • Benylin DM
  • Drixoral
  • DayQuil
  • TheraFlu
  • Tylenol Cold
  • Dimetapp DM
  • Coricidin
  • NyQuil
  • St. Joseph Cough Suppressant
  • Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold and Cough

These products may be mixed with liquid drinks. Colored candies like Skittles may be added to give the drink more color and flavor, spurring the nickname “Skittling” for abuse of this kind of drug.

DXM Addiction and Recovery

Another problem that may result from DXM abuse is that a young person may start abusing this drug because it is easy to get and then may progress on to other, more dangerous drugs like prescription painkillers.

When a person becomes addicted to a drug like dextromethorphan, there can be cravings for the drug that compel use even if the drug user sees the damage being experienced. When this happens, a person may need the support of an effective drug rehabilitation program to get clean. The Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation program has been helping people recover from addiction for almost five decades.

The rehab program offered at a Narconon center provides a longer-term solution to addiction. It takes longer than the 28 days of many rehab programs to overcome the damage that addiction does and build a sober life. It takes learning new life skills and recovering the personal integrity that is lost during addiction. The Narconon program offers all this and a special detoxification action that helps with cravings. The Narconon New Life Detoxification, one phase of the overall addiction recovery program, enables the body to flush out old drug toxins that can contribute to cravings and depress one’s mood. Once they are gone, clearer thinking and a better outlook result.

Learn more about this innovative drug rehabilitation program and how it can help someone you care about.

See also:  Signs and Symptoms of Dextromethorphan Abuse 


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