The Abuse Potential of DXM (Dextromethorphan)

Before codeine was outlawed as an ingredient in over the counter medications, people would turn to cough medicine for a cheap and easy high. Even now, though, taking too high of a dose of OTC medicines – whether intentionally or by accident – can make a person feel high.

DXM stands for dextromethorphan, and it is the ingredient that replaced codeine in cough syrups after it was outlawed in the 1970s.

DXM is sold over-the-counter at drugstores, making it easy to obtain without a prescription. Because of this, it’s typically misused by teenagers, and can be a gateway for experimenting with harder drugs. DXM abuse rates have been decreasing, yet still around 1 in 30 teenagers admit to having abused cough medicines.

What is A DXM High Like?

The effects of getting high off DXM change depending on how large of a dose the person is taking. A high can last anywhere from half an hour to six hours.

At lower doses, the user may feel slightly “buzzed”. At high doses, DXM can produce hallucinogenic effects, similar to those of PCP or ketamine, and feelings of aggression and paranoia may accompany the high.

What Are the Risks of Taking DXM?

The recommended dose of medications containing DXM is usually 15 to 30 milligrams within 24 hours. To get high, users may need to take ten times that amount or more. Side effects may include vomiting, trouble breathing, hypo- and hypertension, and more.

Users who take high doses of DXM are at risk of developing a dangerously high fever if they become very active. This poses a problem for teenagers using DXM to get high at parties or clubs. Like with most other drugs, taking DXM along with alcohol or other drugs raises the risk of trouble.

How Do I Prevent My Teen from Abusing DXM?

Know the warning signs of DXM abuse. If you find empty medicine bottles or pill packs among your teen’s things, cough medicines are disappearing from your house, and your teen is displaying signs of drug abuse like falling grades, a sudden new group of friends, or lack of interest in old hobbies, he or she may be misusing DXM.

If you are concerned your teen may misuse DXM, try to keep cough medicines out of the house. Purchase them only if and when you need them and store them safely when they’re in your home.

Talking to your teen about the dangers of abusing cough medicines or other drugs may be more effective than you’d expect.

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