Drug and Alcohol - Sobriety

Signs & Symptoms of DXM Abuse

DXM abuse can be hard to spot because it is so easily accessible. It’s also often a sign of a deeper addiction problem. Learn more in our blog.

Signs & Symptoms of DXM Abuse

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

June 10, 2022

The Forge Recovery Center

Dextromethorphan (DXM) is a cough suppressant derived from morphine, readily available in hundreds of over-the-counter medications in the United States. Often used to treat colds and the flu, DXM is found in thousands of homes in the United States.

It’s safe to use as directed. When abused, DXM is an addictive drug. It’s often subject to abuse because it is easy to access in practically every city and town in the country.

DXM Abuse: What You Need To Know

People who abuse DXM will generally refer to the drug as “robotripping” after the cough medicine Robitussin in which it is found. Users will exceed the recommended dosage to get high off of DXM. There are three levels of usage, which are called plateaus. Each plateau produces psychoactive effects:

  • Plateau 1 (100-200 milligrams) produces mild stimulations in users. Its effects are said to be similar to that of ecstasy

  • Plateau 2 (200-400 milligrams)

    comes with decreased motor functions and euphoria, and hallucinations. 

  • Plateau 3 (300-1500 milligrams)

    is similar to taking hallucinogens, and people will often have out-of-body experiences. Users will continue to have decreased motor and cognitive function at this dosage. 

DXM abuse is most commonly found in young people, and it has been dubbed 'the poor man's PCP' due to its ability to induce hallucinations and delusions in people taking too high a dose of the drug. At the same time, many people may see the overuse of DXM as harmless because of its over-the-counter status.

Regardless, abusing DXM should be taken seriously as any other drug. DXM can have long-term effects on the user’s health. 

Why Abusing DXM Is Dangerous

Hallucinations aside, DXM has been shown to negatively impact an abuser's health. Immediate effects of taking too high of a dosage of DXM include:

  • Depressed breathing

  • Extreme sedation

  • Increased risk of having a heart attack 

  • Poor judgment

  • Decreased motor skills

  • Tachycardia

If someone takes too much DXM at one time, there is a risk of overdose. Due to its sedating effects on the body and brain, DXM has been known to cause seizures, comas, and death.

Additionally, using the drug long-term has shown to damage organs in the body, particularly the heart, liver, and lungs, as many medicines that have DXM also contain acetaminophen

Signs and Symptoms of DXM Abuse

Due to the consequences of DXM abuse and how easy it is to access, it is crucial to recognize if a loved one is abusing the drug. There are four key signs that someone is abusing DXM:

#1. Altered Behavior

After using too high of a dose of DXM, it often takes a long time for the user to recover due to its sedating effects. If you notice that a loved one is constantly tired, clumsy, or using poor judgment, but they do not smell of alcohol, they may be abusing DXM. Due to poor judgment and drowsiness caused by DXM abuse, users will often start missing work and school. They will act inappropriately in these settings, which can cause them to be fired or fail classes.  

#2. Abusing Other Substances

The majority of people who abuse DXM also use other substances. DXM users often mix the drugs with alcohol and marijuana or abuse prescription medications such as opiates or benzos. This can make abusing DXM even more dangerous and will increase the sedating effects of the drug. Additionally, people abusing DXM will often use uppers to help them recover. 

#3. Using Too Much Cough Medicine

People buying DXM to abuse it will spend a lot of time, energy, and resources to obtain and use the drug. People who abuse DXM may always say they are sick but are not symptomatic. Additionally, if an individual is constantly buying cough medicine or seeing an excessive number of empty boxes or bottles around their home, they may have more than just a cold. 

#4. Admitting to Having Out-Of-Body Experiences

People abusing drugs with psychedelic properties will often admit to having hallucinations, delusions, or out-of-body experiences. If a loved one readily admitted to you that they are experiencing these symptoms of DXM abuse, it may be time to get them help. 

When to Get Help from An Addiction Center

If you are noticing the symptoms and signs of DXM, it is vital to seek addiction treatment for the individual immediately. People abusing DXM often have a polysubstance use disorder, meaning they are addicted to multiple drugs. If not treated, polysubstance use disorders can have devastating impacts on a loved one's mental and physical health, including overdose. 

Although DXM is an over-the-counter medication, abuse has been so severe in recent years that addiction centers provide drug and alcohol treatment for DXM abuse. There are various treatment options available to a loved one, but the first step will be talking to them about their problem. 

The Forge Recovery Center will help you if you have a loved one that is struggling with DXM abuse. Although DXM is not a controlled substance, it can still be highly addictive and impact someone's life by damaging relationships, finances, and health. More importantly, people who abuse DXM are likely addicted to other drugs.

Our expertly trained staff is here to help give you the resources you need to determine what treatment options are available to your loved one so they can begin a journey to a life filled with happiness and health. Contact The Forge Recovery Center today to learn more.

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