Dextromethorphan: Understanding Addiction and Misuse

Dextromethorphan (DXM) is a widely used cough suppressant found in over-the-counter medications. While safe when taken as directed, excessive and illicit use of DXM has become a growing concern. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of DXM abuse, including its signs and symptoms, side effects, and available treatment options. If you or someone you know is struggling with DXM abuse, it’s essential to seek help and explore the various treatment programs available.

What Is Dextromethorphan Used For?

Dextromethorphan, also known as DXM, is a cough suppressant commonly found in over-the-counter medications. It is used to relieve cough symptoms caused by the common cold or respiratory infections. When taken as directed, DXM is safe and not habit-forming. However, when taken in excessive doses or administered via alternative methods, such as snorting or injecting, DXM can act as a dissociative anesthetic, mimicking the effects of drugs like PCP and Ketamine.

Signs and Symptoms of DXM Abuse

DXM abuse can have various physical, psychological, and social signs and symptoms. It’s crucial to be aware of these indicators to identify if someone is struggling with DXM abuse. Some common signs and symptoms include:

Physical Signs and Symptoms

  • Euphoria
  • Feelings of detachment from the body
  • Blotchy skin
  • Depression
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Involuntary movements (ataxia)
  • Double vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired ability to walk
  • Itching
  • Numbness of fingers and toes
  • Symptoms of psychosis
  • Racing heart
  • Vomiting

Lifestyle and Social Signs

  • Changes in appearance
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Gradual or sudden change in friends
  • Loss of interest in hobbies, family, or social activities
  • Disappearance of money
  • Poor hygiene
  • Sudden drop in academic performance
  • Uncooperative nature

Dextromethorphan Side Effects

Abusing DXM can have severe health consequences, including serious illness or death. While DXM alone is not necessarily the cause of severe illness or death, when combined with other active ingredients found in multi-symptom cold medications, it can lead to various health problems. Some of the potential side effects of DXM abuse include:

  • Liver failure
  • Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
  • Seizures
  • Hyperthermia
  • Respiratory depression
  • Coma

It’s essential to be aware of the risks associated with DXM abuse and seek help if you or someone you know is struggling with this substance.

Dextromethorphan Abuse Treatment

Fortunately, there are treatment options available for individuals struggling with dextromethorphan abuse. The following treatment modalities can be effective in addressing DXM addiction:

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment involves residential care, where individuals stay at a treatment facility for a specified period. This type of treatment provides a highly structured environment, 24/7 medical support, and intensive therapy sessions. Inpatient treatment is recommended for individuals with severe DXM addiction or co-occurring mental health disorders.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment allows individuals to receive treatment while living at home and attending therapy sessions at scheduled times. This type of treatment offers more flexibility and is suitable for individuals with a less severe addiction or those transitioning from inpatient care.

12-Step Programs

12-step programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), provide a supportive and structured approach to recovery. These programs follow a set of guiding principles and offer group therapy sessions, sponsorships, and a sense of community.

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a science-based alternative to 12-step programs. It emphasizes self-empowerment and focuses on building coping skills and strategies to overcome addiction. SMART Recovery employs rational and evidence-based techniques to support individuals on their recovery journey.

Who’s Abusing DXM?

DXM abuse is prevalent among young individuals, particularly those between the ages of 12 and 20. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network’s DAWN Report, more than half of emergency room visits for non-medical use of dextromethorphan were made by this age group. SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) states that 3.1 million Americans between the ages of 12 and 25 had ingested cough and cold medicine recreationally. DXM abuse can produce a high similar to that of PCP and other psychotropic drugs, making it attractive to young people.

Teen Dextromethorphan Abuse

Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to DXM abuse due to its easy accessibility and low cost. Approximately 10% of teenagers have abused cough medicines containing DXM to get high. To prevent DXM abuse among teens, it’s essential to educate them about the risks and consequences of substance abuse. Open communication, setting clear rules, and monitoring medicine quantities can help prevent teen DXM abuse.

Finding DXM Treatment Programs

If you or a loved one is struggling with DXM addiction, it’s crucial to seek professional help. Several treatment options can cater to individual needs and provide the necessary support for recovery. To find DXM treatment programs:

  1. Consult a healthcare professional or addiction specialist for guidance and recommendations.
  2. Use SAMHSA’s Behavioral Services Locator to search for treatment centers in your area.
  3. Visit your state government’s website for local drug and alcohol resources and further contacts for assistance.
  4. Reach out to American Addiction Centers (AAC) for information, advice, and admissions.


Dextromethorphan (DXM) abuse is a serious concern that can have severe health consequences. Understanding the signs and symptoms of DXM abuse is crucial for early intervention and treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with DXM addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Treatment options are available, and recovery is possible with the right support and guidance.

Remember, you’re not alone, and there are resources and professionals ready to assist you on your journey to a healthier and happier life .Call us today at 833-820-2922.