DXM Abuse and Treatment Options

Dextromethorphan (DXM) is a cough suppressant medication that is found in over a hundred over-the-counter medications. Though it is safe to use as directed to treat colds and coughs, DXM creates a problem when people take it more often than recommended or take the drug in an effort to achieve a high.

Referred to by a number of a slang names, including robotripping and dexing, DXM is popular among young adults who want to get high and many don’t realize that the drug is as strong as it is. Over time individuals may become dependent or addicted to DXM.

DXM Specifics

Any medication that contains DXM can be abused. DXM is classified as a dissociative drug and, like other drugs of this class, can cause a range of reactions that users often describe as different “plateaus.” These experiences depend on how much was taken, the person’s physical makeup, and if other drugs were used at the same time. The high comes in different stages:

  1. The first stage is a feeling of drunkenness.
  2. The second stage brings the addition of slurred speech, plus some people have hallucinations at this point.
  3. In the third stage, consciousness is altered and senses are impaired, including vision.
  4. At the fourth stage, dissociation sets in. The person’s senses are altered. In this stage, the high has been compared to that of PCP.

DXM is easy to find and easy to buy. It can be taken in liquid or pill form and is found in a range of medications. Some common brand name medications that contain DXM include:

  • Comtrex.
  • Delsym.
  • Robitussin.
  • Tylenol Cold.
  • Vicks Formula 44.

Any medication that lists DM in its title, such as Mucinex DM, carries DXM as its primary ingredient. However, if it isn’t listed as part of the name, it does not mean that ingredient isn’t present, which is why it is important to read all labels when purchasing over-the-counter medication.

Who Abuses DXM?

Though popular among young people, people of all ages are susceptible to DXM misuse. Abuse or misuse of DXM can occur when:

  • An individual takes a cough suppressant or cold medication containing DXM beyond the labeling instructions (either more frequently or in higher doses).
  • A person takes a medication containing DXM when it is not needed.
  • Someone combines DXM with other substances of abuse like alcohol.
  • A person takes DCM with the goal of getting high.

Signs of DXM Abuse

The normal medical dosage for DXM is only 15-30 milligrams every four hours. Those abusing the medication are more likely to take much higher doses than an acceptable medicinal dose. Some people use certain chemicals to separate the ingredients, thus getting a straight DXM high. In addition, some users combine DXM with use of other substances in an effort to intensify the high. Mixing substances increases the likelihood that an overdose will occur.

Signs that someone is abusing DXM are generally similar to signs of substance abuse in general. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.) lists 11 criteria that may indicate substance abuse. These include:

  • Taking substances in more larger amounts and for longer period than intended.
  • Wanting to cut down or control substance use or trying and failing in attempts to do so.
  • Spending a great deal of time getting or using a substance or recovering from its effects.
  • Having a strong desire or urge to use substances (cravings).
  • Being unable fulfill responsibilities at work, school, or home due to substance use.
  • Continuing to use drugs or alcohol despite interpersonal problems caused or worsened by use.
  • Giving up or reducing important social, work, or hobbies to use substances.
  • Using substance in dangerous situations (while driving, for example).
  • Continued substance use despite knowing that it likely caused or worsened a physical or psychological problem.
  • Needing increasing amounts substance to experience the same effects (tolerance).
  • Experiencing uncomfortable physical or psychological symptoms when use is cut down or stopped (withdrawal).

Treatment for DXM Abuse

If a person continually abuses DXM, addiction treatment may be needed. If you are concerned about you or someone you love, know that there is help available. River Oaks Treatment Center offers comprehensive addiction treatment to help address DXM abuse, as well as other addictions.

Contact our compassionate and caring admission navigators at to find out more about treatment in Tampa, Florida, check your insurance coverage for rehab, payment options, or to begin the admissions process. When you’re ready to get on the road to recovery, we’re here to help.


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