What is DXM? Learn About Dextromethorphan Addiction, Treatment and Recovery
Written By: Robert Castan | Edited By: Editorial Team | Last Updated: June 8, 2021
Springboard Recovery provides effective treatment for substance use & mental health disorders.
Table of Contents
- What is Dextromethorphan (DXM)?
- How is Dextromethorphan Abused?
- The Side Effects of DXM
- How do People Get Addicted to DXM?
- Can People Overdose on Dextromethorphan?
- Getting Treatment for DXM Addiction
- Drug Rehabilitation Services for Dextromethorphan
- Learn More About Dextromethorphan (DXM) Addiction and Treatment
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DXM can be highly addictive, and its euphoric effects encourage young people to continue using it. It is not uncommon for people to get addicted to it, and when they do, they may need treatment in order to recover. Going through drug rehab is highly encouraged, and some people may also need to spend some time in detox to get help with withdrawal symptoms.
Sadly, young people and even some adults will continue to abuse DXM assuming that it is relatively safe. The fact that it is sold over-the-counter means that people tend to think of it as less dangerous than drugs like heroin, cocaine or even prescription painkillers. But this drug can have serious consequences. Here, we would like to discuss DXM abuse and addiction in greater detail and cover the various treatment options that are available.
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What is Dextromethorphan (DXM)?
Dextromethorphan, or DXM, is an ingredient that is found in many over-the-counter cold and cough medicines. It is a cough suppressant that can be purchased alone or in products along with other ingredients, such as acetaminophen, decongestants, expectorants and/or antihistamines.
This medication can work really well when it is taken appropriately. At proper doses, most people do not experience any type of side effects at all. But that is not the case when this drug is being abused.
People often abuse this drug because it is so easy to obtain. It produces a euphoric high that is similar to what is experienced with hallucinogenic drugs.
Where do People Get DXM?
Cough medicine that contains dextromethorphan can easily be found in stores. It is available at pharmacies, corner drug stores and even grocery stores. People who are seeking this drug for abuse purposes will typically look for the products that contain the highest concentration of this ingredient.
But young people may not be old enough to purchase DXM over-the-counter in their local stores. It is also possible to get this drug online, or even on the dark web, where age verification is not a concern.
How is Dextromethorphan Abused?
Most people simply take larger doses of DXM because that is how one experiences the drug’s euphoric effects. The typical dose for an adult is about 15-30 mg at a time. But people who want to get high will take between 250 mg and 1,500 mg. Both are far above the recommended dosage.
Getting high on DMX is often referred to as “skittling,” “dexing” or “robo-tripping.” Users will drink large amounts of cough syrup in order to achieve the desired effects. But more recently, people have started to abuse the pills rather than the liquid. These are higher dose products that are easier to consume. The user can even take them with them to school, work or anywhere else.
DXM powder is also available for purchase online, but these products raise even more questions. There is no way to tell how pure they are or what other drugs might be mixed in. Authorities have uncovered DXM tablets that have been made by mixing in pseudoephedrine and/or methamphetamine as well.
The Side Effects of DXM
Most people who abuse dextromethorphan are focusing on the drug’s high and not on the side effects that can occur. As we mentioned previously, when DXM is taken at the right doses, it does not have any serious side effects. But that is not the case when people take higher doses. It can impact both the brain and the body.
Effects on the Brain
Taking DXM at high doses can have the following psychoactive effects:
- Inappropriate laughter
- Bouts of confusion
- Out of body experiences
Abusing this drug for a long period of time can result in psychological dependence on it. This means that a person may come to believe that they need to have this drug in order to function properly.
Effects on the Body
Dextromethorphan also has some profound physical effects on the body. Some of them include:
- Becoming lethargic
- Loss of coordination
- Excessive sweating
- High blood pressure
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Becoming over-excited
- Slurred speech
- Strange, involuntary and spasmodic eyeball movements
When DXM is combined with other drugs, such as alcohol, it can be even more dangerous. People have died from this combination. Antidepressants should also not be mixed with this drug because it can lead to fatal consequences.
How do People Get Addicted to DXM?
People get addicted to DXM by abusing it for a certain amount of time. It can take just a few weeks for this addiction to set in, and once it does, it can be impossible to stop using the drug without professional help.
When people abuse DXM, it increases the amount of dopamine that is released in their brains. This is what causes sensations of euphoria. People will often chase after that experience, and eventually, their brains are unable to create and release dopamine on their own. They end up abusing this drug just so they can feel more like themselves.
Signs of Addiction to Watch for
Because dextromethorphan is a drug that is commonly used by young people, parents should be diligent in noticing any signs that their children are addicted. But they may not always know what to look for. Also, people who abuse this drug may not realize that they have gotten addicted, and knowing the signs can help them make the decision to stop using it.
Some of the signs of addiction include:
- Denying that a serious problem with this drug exists.
- Using the drug as a way to deal with one’s problems.
- Becoming obsessed with the drug, ensuring they always have some on-hand.
- Taking risks to obtain and use the drug.
- Finding it difficult to stop using even if they want to.
- Spending time with people who use the drug or only using it in secret.
- Giving up once-loved activities and hobbies in favor of spending more time using this drug.
- Finding that more of the drug is needed to achieve the desired effects.
Can People Overdose on Dextromethorphan?
It is possible for people to overdose on DXM, but it is most likely to occur when the person has been abusing this drug along with alcohol or another drug. Many deaths that are related to dextromethorphan are due to accidents that took place because of cognitive impairment.
People often use DXM along with alcohol to enhance its effects. This is a practice that is quite common once people begin forming a tolerance to the drug.
Getting Treatment for DXM Addiction
People who are addicted to DXM should not try to quit using this drug on their own. They may encounter physically and mentally painful withdrawal symptoms that need to be addressed. If they are not, the risk of relapsing can become quite high. Also, it is important to address the reasons behind the person’s substance abuse problem as well.
Because of the fact that people often use other drugs along with dextromethorphan, many people may need to go through drug detox as well as rehab. This ensures that any drug they are addicted to will be treated appropriately.
Drug detox refers to the process of removing toxins from the body that are present because of substance abuse. Its purpose is to address the withdrawal symptoms that can occur when a drug is stopped.
People who are abusing DXM alone may not need to go through the detoxification process, unless they have been using it for an extended period of time. It can produce withdrawal symptoms, which include:
- Intense cravings for the drug
- High blood pressure
- A faster heart rate than normal
- Excessive sweating
The type of detox program that is recommended will depend on what the individual person needs. A person who is also addicted to other drugs or alcohol may need medication assisted treatment, or MAT. Medical detox is also an option, as is holistic treatment for withdrawal.
Going to drug rehab is very important for someone who is addicted to dextromethorphan. While most people – especially teenagers – may be hesitant to admit it, there are reasons why they chose to use this drug. Some do so out of curiosity or because their friends are pressuring them to try it. But once they do, they may notice that they enjoy the effects of DXM and desire to experience them again.
Many people start abusing DXM because they are trying to self-medicate the symptoms of a mental health issue. These conditions are typically undiagnosed and the symptoms are unpleasant. Over-the-counter drugs like dextromethorphan can mask them for a short time, but of course, it is not a true treatment. When a person has an addiction and a mental health issue at the same time, this is called having a co-occurring disorder.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that as many as 50% of all people who go to rehab will need treatment for a co-occurring disorder. That demonstrates how closely the two are linked. Dual diagnosis treatment is recommended in these situations to ensure that the underlying reason for the person’s substance abuse is properly addressed.
SpringBoard Recovery: Drug Rehabilitation Services for Dextromethorphan (DXM) Addiction
At SpringBoard Recovery, we understand how serious addiction to dextromethorphan is, and the best ways to treat it. When we work with our clients, we are always careful to offer them personalized services that are targeted to their specific needs. Every addiction is different, and we want to ensure that we provide the best care possible.
Every client who walks through our doors is carefully assessed to determine what their needs are. For those who need to go through detox, we will provide them with a referral since we do not offer those services in-house. But we only refer to programs we trust to provide excellent care. Once they have detoxed off DXM, they can return to our program for the remainder of their treatment.
We offer outpatient drug treatment at our Arizona facility. Our intensive outpatient program (IOP) is known to be among the best in the state. Participants in our IOP come to treatment 3-5 times per week during the evening hours. They enjoy this type of flexibility because they are able to continue working, going to school and caring for their families during the day.
Not all of our clients have supportive home situations. Many live with others who also use drugs or alcohol, or they may be victims of domestic violence or emotional abuse. In situations like these, we highly recommend our sober living services. We operate a sober living home that can provide a safe place for people to live while they work through the recovery process. Also, many people choose to travel out of state for rehab, and our sober living home is open to them as well.
Learn More About Dextromethorphan (DXM) Addiction and Treatment
Once a person gets addicted to dextromethorphan, it can be difficult for them to imagine a life not tied to this drug. But it is possible for people to recover successfully and go on to live full and healthy lives that are free of any type of substance abuse. They only need to be willing to take the first step and ask for help.
Do you have questions about dextromethorphan (DXM) addiction? Would you like to know more about our outpatient treatment program or sober living home? We can help. Please contact us today.
- US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5601090/
- Department of Justice: https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/DXM-2020.pdf
- Drug Enforcement Administration: https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/dextro_m.pdf
- National Library of Medicine: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30903576/
- Drugs.com: https://www.drugs.com/sfx/dextromethorphan-side-effects.html
- Science Daily: https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/psychoactive_drug.htm
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- US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2925345/
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/comorbidity-substance-use-other-mental-disorders