Dextromethorphan (DXM) is an active ingredient in cough syrups and pill forms of cold medicines. Though present in many over-the-counter household medicines used for cough suppression and sore throats, dextromethorphan can also be a source of substance use for adolescents. Because it does not require a prescription, often parents do not recognize the potential risk for DXM abuse or addiction. Recent studies have shown, however, that at least 10 percent of teenagers abuse cough syrups with DXM as an active ingredient.

Adolescent Addiction in Plain Sight

Adolescents often abuse DXM-based medicines because they are an inexpensive and easily accessible means of getting high. Cough medicines are often readily available in a household medicine cabinet and their use as a recreational drug is frequently unexpected and unnoticed.

What products contain DXM?

  • NyQuil
  • Dimetapp
  • Tylenol Cough & Cold
  • Vick’s Formula 44
  • Mucinex DM
  • Robitussin
  • Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold
  • Cepacal
  • Zicam
  • Delays
  • Alka-Seltzer Plus
  • Tylenol Cold Max

DXM Use and Risks

DXM, when consumed in high doses, can cause hallucinations, increased energy and euphoria. It is found not only in cough syrups but also through foreign online pharmaceutical websites as a concentrated powder. This powdered form of DXM can be dissolved into liquids or mixed in with other stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine, increasing its potency and risk factors.

Users can experience pleasurable effects and hallucinations so severe that they endanger lives. While using DXM, adolescents may see things that are not there or ignore physically present elements like stoplights, traffic and other immediate threats that cannot be accurately processed by the brain. While there are cases of children overdosing from elevated levels of DXM, death by overdose is not common with this drug. However, when DXM is combined with other substances, it can cause seizures and other alarming and potentially fatal side effects.

Parents should always monitor accessibility of household medications, prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs, particularly those that contain addictive ingredients like DXM. Talking to your children about the effects and dangers of DXM and other drugs can reduce the drive to try them. Be open and calm about these conversations and express your willingness to help. If your child becomes addicted to DXM or is currently struggling with another addiction, please call Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Treatment Center today at 662-259-8474.