Dextromethorphan (DXM) is one of the main ingredients in many over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medications. It’s legal and easily bought from pharmacies and grocery stores, so typical users are teenagers and young adults.
In fact, 1 in 11 teens have admitted to getting high on cough medicine. DXM use is referred to by teens as “robo-tripping,” “skittling,” and “tussin toss.” According to the 2015 Monitoring the Future study, 4.6% of 12th graders reported recreational use of cough syrups in the past year.
At recommended doses, DXM is quite safe. However, because abusers regularly take 10 times the “normal” dose, and often take it with other substances, DXM abuse can lead to serious side effects, including death.
DXM is a dissociative anesthetic, synthetically produced and chemically related to codeine. It produces a high similar to another dissociative anesthetic, Ketamine (or “Special K”). When consumed in high doses, DXM can cause a hallucinogenic, trance-like euphoria. The typical high lasts 6-8 hours.
Most DXM abusers ingest the drug orally as a liquid syrup, capsule or pill. Other forms can be snorted and even injected. Pure DXM powder can be bought online and is often mixed with alcohol to mask its taste.
- Street names for DXM include: Dex, Dextro, Drix, Gel, Groove, Mega-perls, Poor man’s PCP, Red devils, Robo, Rojo, Rome, Sky, Syrup, Tussin, Velvet, Triple C, Skittles, Drank and Vitamin D.
- Commercial names for DXM include: Robitussin and Delsym. Common combination products containing DXM include Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold Tablets, TheraFlu, Triaminic, Robitussin DM and NyQuil Nighttime Cold Medicine, as well as many other brand and generic names.
- When the recommended dose is exceeded, side effects of DXM may include: confusion, nausea and vomiting, sweating, dizziness, accelerated heartbeat, stomach pain, hyperexcitability, paranoia, slurred speech, seizures and vivid auditory and visual hallucinations. The use of high doses of DXM in combination with alcohol or other drugs is particularly dangerous and deaths have been reported. Chronic abuse of the drug has also been associated with psychosis.
DXM has been noted as a drug of abuse since the 1960s. If you or someone you know is abusing DXM, this is a dangerous activity and some form of intervention should be attempted. Call a local drug and alcohol treatment center or call New Bridge Foundation® at (866) 772-8491 for more information on treatment options.