DXM, or dextromethorphan, is a commonly-used synthetic substance found in over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. DXM has a long history of efficacy and safety in suppressing cough when used in therapeutic doses. Because it has been used over-the-counter for decades, it is generally considered innocuous. Most people don’t give having it in their medicine cabinet a second thought. However, the Drug Enforcement Agency reports abuse of DXM to be on the rise.
When used above the recommended dose, DXM can be a powerful drug. Users report heightened perceptual awareness, altered perception of time, and even visual hallucinations. Also, when used in conjunction with other drugs, DXM has an additive effect. Because DXM is easy to acquire, curious teens are able to experiment with the drug. Some people can even become addicted to DXM, drinking bottles of cough syrup or taking whole boxes of DXM pills at a time. Just like any other drug addiction, the effect produced by DXM becomes an obsession, and it becomes more and more difficult to reach the desired “high” while being forced to increase dosage.
DXM can also produce a litany of side-effects. These include nausea, panic attacks, sweating, slurred speech, racing heart-rate. Over time, DXM can cause a feeling of disassociation and intense confusion. Most chronic abusers will display symptoms of withdrawal upon cessation of use. These symptoms include anxiety, weight loss, diarrhea, insomnia, upset stomach, and more. In short, what started as an experiment can turn into a difficult period of sickness and intense mental craving. Not everyone who tries drugs gets addicted, but DXM CAN become addictive over time.
It is important to know what is in your medicine cabinet. Teens are naturally curious, and some are drawn to risky behaviors. Open dialogue and taking steps to protect the family are great ways to reduce the probability of future problems. The truth is some people will experiment and some people will face addiction no matter how many precautions you take. Remember, there is help.