DXM Misuse: Effects, Addiction, & Treatment

In 2021, approximately 1.6 million Americans ages 12 and older reported misusing dextromethorphan, or DXM.1 With thousands of people each year finding themselves in emergency departments because of DXM misuse, it is clear this over-the-counter substance can be dangerous when used outside of prescribed guidelines.2

This article will go into further detail about what DXM is, DXM side effects, DXM withdrawal symptoms, and ways to get DXM addiction treatment in Florida.

What is DXM (Dextromethorphan)?

DXM is an antitussive (cough suppressant) that is most commonly used in over-the-counter cough and cold medications.3,4 It was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1958 to treat cough and continues to be approved to do so today.4 Common street names for DXM include dex, red devils, and skittles, and people tend to misuse it to achieve effects including euphoria, dissociation, and sometimes even hallucinations.5

DXM, which is classified as a dissociative, can be found in tablets, capsules, or cough syrup, all of which can be purchased at pharmacies nationwide.4 DXM is usually consumed in its original form, however some people mix it with soda, which is known as “robotripping” or “skittling”, while others may inject it.3

Cough syrups, capsules, and tablets containing DXM and labeled “extra strength” are the most frequently misused forms of DXM and are often misused alongside other substances, including alcohol and marijuana.

DXM (Dextromethorphan) Side Effects

The misuse of DXM can trigger the onset of side effects that can range in severity based on the amount that is consumed. Some of these effects can include the following:6

  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Sensory changes
  • Over-excitability
  • Slurred speech
  • Sweating
  • Involuntary movement of the eyes

It is also common for DXM to produce effects that include mild stimulation, euphoria, hallucinations, and out of body sensations.6 When taken in high doses, DXM effects can mimic the behavioral effects of PCP, which is also a dissociative.7

Risks & Dangers of DXM Misuse

There are many health-related dangers that can occur as a result of misusing DXM and DXM combination products.7 Misusing DXM can not only cause psychological dependence, but it can also lead to:6,7

  • Liver toxicity and/or damage when misuse includes DXM products containing acetaminophen.
  • Increased blood pressure upon the misuse of DXM products containing pseudophedrine.
  • Cardiovascular, anticholinergic, and central nervous system toxicity upon the misuse of DXM products containing antihistamines.

Dextromethorphan Overdose Symptoms

Even though DXM is an over-the-counter medication, it is still possible for an overdose to occur.3 A DXM overdose can produce symptoms that include, but are not limited to:2,3

  • High blood pressure.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Seizures.
  • Psychosis.
  • Impaired breathing.
  • Permanent brain damage.
  • Coma.
  • Death.

Is DXM Addictive?

Yes, DXM has potential to become addictive.According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), there are several criteria that indicate if a person is experiencing an addiction to DXM or other substances. Some of these criteria include, but are not limited to:9

  • Taking DXM in larger amounts or for a longer period of time than intended.
  • Cravings or strong desires to use DXM.
  • Making attempts reduce or stop DXM use but being unable to do so.
  • Continuing to use DXM despite recurrent interpersonal problems caused by the use.
  • Failure to uphold responsibilities at home, work, or school as a result of DXM use.

DXM Withdrawal Symptoms

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not include withdrawal as part of their diagnostic criteria to determine addiction to DXM.And while there is still much to be determined regarding DXM withdrawal symptoms, there are people who have reportedly experienced some symptoms after stopping their DXM use, including:8,10

  • Nausea.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Disturbed sleep.
  • Depressed mood.
  • Fatigue.

DXM Addiction Treatment in Florida

If you are struggling with DXM misuse or addiction, River Oaks, an inpatient rehab near Tampa, is here to help. Our facility offers several effective levels of addiction treatment. Contact our facility to get admitted today. Our admission navigators can answer any questions you have about paying for rehab and insurance coverage for rehab.

Get started on your recovery right now by having your insurance verified with us. Simply fill out this secure online and receive results within minutes.

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