What Is DXM? The Over-the-Counter Hallucinogen Popular Among Teens

Dextromethorphan (DXM) is an active ingredient in many over-the-counter cough and cold medications. While DXM has legitimate medical uses as a cough suppressant, its misuse, especially among teenagers, has become a significant concern. This blog post delves into what DXM is, its medical and recreational use, the risks associated with its abuse, and the treatment options available for those struggling with DXM addiction.

What Is DXM?

DXM is found in a range of medications, including but not limited to Coricidin, Delsym, Robitussin, Dimetapp, Theraflu, Tylenol Cough & Cold, Vicks Dayquil and Nyquil, Pediacare, and Alka Seltzer Plus. It’s sought after for its cough-suppressing capabilities, categorized as an antitussive, and operates by dampening the brain’s cough reflex​​.

Medical Use of DXM

Medically, DXM is used to manage symptoms of the common cold or flu, helping individuals cope with coughing without treating the underlying illness. Its recommended dosage for cough suppression is about 15 to 30 mg every three to four hours, not exceeding 120 mg within 24 hours​​.

Recreational Use and Misuse

However, the narrative shifts when DXM is consumed in quantities far exceeding the advised therapeutic dose, a practice some individuals, particularly teens, engage in to experience a high. This misuse can lead to serious health problems and potentially foster addiction. Users, seeking an intense experience akin to that of LSD or PCP, often consume 250 to 1,500 mg of DXM, engaging in what is colloquially known as “robotripping,” “skittling,” or “dexing”​​.

The Dangers of DXM Abuse

The effects of DXM abuse can be severe, ranging from delusions, dissociation, and paranoia to visual hallucinations, euphoria, and cognitive impairments. The recreational use of DXM mirrors the effects of dissociative drugs like PCP, leading to unpredictable behavior and, in some cases, dangerous situations​​.

Recognizing DXM Abuse

Identifying DXM abuse involves noting signs such as lack of coordination, inappropriate laughter or confusion, agitation, and paranoia. Observing empty cough syrup bottles or medication packets can also indicate misuse​​.

Trends in DXM Misuse

Research indicates that DXM abuse peaked around 2006 and has been on a general decline. However, emergency department visits suggest a significant portion of these cases involve individuals between 12 and 20 years old, highlighting the substance’s popularity among teens​​.

Treatment for DXM Addiction

Treatment for DXM addiction includes a variety of evidence-based methods, such as individual therapy, group therapy, motivational interviewing, and cognitive behavioral therapy. These treatments aim to address both the symptoms of addiction and any underlying mental health issues contributing to substance use​​.

Prevention and Education

Preventing DXM abuse starts with education on its dangers and monitoring over-the-counter medications at home. Parents are encouraged to be vigilant about their teen’s internet usage and to communicate openly about the risks of misusing drugs​​​​.

In conclusion, while DXM is a legally obtainable cough suppressant, its potential for abuse, particularly among teenagers, poses significant risks. Understanding these dangers, recognizing signs of abuse, and seeking appropriate treatment are crucial steps in addressing this issue. Through education and vigilance, we can help prevent the misuse of DXM and protect the health and well-being of our youth.

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