Dextromethorphan is a component of cough suppressant medications that is available in many different over-the-counter cough medications. Street names of dextromethorphan are D, dex, skittles, red devil, DXM, DM,and tussin. Because it is a legal drug, it can be purchased by anyone in most states, even by teens. According to the U.S. Nation Library of Medicine, dextromethorphan is used to temporarily relieve a cough caused by the common cold, the flu, or other illnesses. This drug will relieve a cough but will not actually treat the cause of the cough or speed up recovery. Dextromethorphan is in a class of medications called antitussives. It works by decreasing activity in the part of the brain that causes coughing. It comes as a liquid-filled capsule, a chewable tablet, a dissolving strip, a solution, an extended-release, and a lozenge. It is usually taken every 4 to 12 hours as needed.

Dextromethorphan is included in over 100 different products designed to treat the common cold, symptoms of influenza, allergies, and other conditions that produce coughing and cold or flulike symptoms. When using it as directed, dextromethorphan can cause a number of physical side-effects including:

  • dizziness
  • lightheadedness
  • drowsiness
  • nervousness
  • restlessness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • stomach pain

Dextromethorphan (Cough Syrup) Abuse

There are many problems that dextromethorphan can cause if an individual begins abusing it. The most alarming risks from abuse are serious illness or death.

The symptoms that result from Dextromethorphan abuse depend on how much of the medication is taken and whether another drug such as alcohol or marijuana is added into consumption. Narconon has identified four plateaus of intoxication described by users of Dextromethorphan.

The first plateau is a mild sort of inebriation similar to drunkenness. The second stage is the inebriation in addition to slurred speech and also mild hallucinations.

Short-term memory can also be impaired by the drug. The third stage is an altered state of consciousness. Vision or other senses may be impaired in this stage. And in the fourth stage, a person can feel a loss of contact with the body, with all senses feeling like they have been shut off. This level of intoxication is similar to that of ketamine or PCP.

When legitimately treating a cough, the recommended dosage of dextromethorphan is 10 to 29 milligrams every four hours. But when an individual is abusing the drug by 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.

As with any drug, symptoms of addiction to 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

Treatment for Dextromethorphan Addiction

When confronting the addiction to dextromethorphan, it is important to understand that the abuse of this drug may also be accompanied by the abuse of other drugs or the simultaneous occurrence of a mental health disorder. The first step in getting help with any substance use disorder is to undergo an assessment by a qualified medical doctor and mental health so that all issues are addressed. When an individual is abusing more than one substance or has a substance use disorder and a mental health condition, trying to address one condition but ignoring the other is a very ineffective approach to solve the problem. Therefore, it is important that at the beginning of treatment, the whole person and all of their accompanying issues are taken into account.