Dextromethorphan By: Stella Choi & Luke Cranor

What is it? Where does it come from? How is it made?

Dextromethorphan is a synthetic substance (made in a lab) used in over the counter drugs found in many medications such as cough syrup, tablets, capsules, or powder used to suppress coughs. Popular over-the-counter brands with dextromethorphan include Robitussin, Coricidin, and HBP.



The typical adults dose is 15-30 mg taken 3-4 times a day. However, some abusers ingest 250-1,500 mg in a single dose which is about 3-4 bottles of Robitussin.

Dextromethorphan is used while drinking cough syrup or using capsules, swallowing tablets, or snorting powder.


DXM affects abusers in both physical and psychological ways.

This includes dizziness, nausea, a loss of coordination, sweating, blurred vision, slurred speech, headaches, skin sensitivity, redness in the face, and dry skin and mouth.

Numbness is a sign of danger.

Abusers who use DXM to get high may experience tremors, involuntary twitching and, ironically, depression.

Other effects include increase in perceptual awareness and altered time perception, hallucinations and confusion, addiction, and lethargy.

DXM can become deadly once the abuser's body temperature rises and the heart starts to beat irregularly or at a faster rate (aka tachycardia), blood pressure risers, and the user loses consciousness.

FACTs and statistics ABOUT USERS & USAGE

If abused regularly, consuming DXM may cause abusers to experience more insomnia and dysphoria instead of assuaging them.

34,755 cases referred to a U.S. poison center between 2000 and 2010 involved the abuse of dextromethorphan.

The average annual rate of DXM poisoning was 13.4/1,000,000 people for the general population and 113/1,000,000 for 15 to 19 year olds.

2% of eighth graders and 4.1% of 12th graders surveyed reported using cough medicines for non-medical reasons.


There is not much information on the long term effects of DXM, but based on the research done thus far and the abusers themselves, abuse of DXM over a long duration may lead to an inability to learn and remember things clearly.

Dextromethorphan is addictive, and high doses of DXM with alcohol or other drugs like antidepressants can cause death.

interesting facts

One reason behind the use of DXM over the use of other drugs is predicted to be its availability. Being an OTC drug, it is also cheap and falsely considered to be a “less dangerous” alternative. While non-prescribed drugs (illicit drugs) are explicitly said to have immediate dangerous effects after only a few doses, OTC drugs abusers use DXM uneducated about the dangerous effects of OTC drugs if used disregarding the recommended amount. This leads to curious teenagers experimenting with OTC such as DXM instead of other drugs.

Between 2000 and 2003, poison center calls related to teenage DXM abuse rose from 1,623 to 3,271, while calls from other age groups rose only from 900 to 1,111, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

Signs of someone abusing DXM include stockpiles of cold and cough medicines, hidden cough syrup bottles, and bookmarked websites on the internet encouraging or selling DXM.

Darboe, an author of the Adolescence report, stated that studies showed that those who abuse an OTC drug like DXM may be predisposed to begin abusing illegal and more addictive drugs.

In 2005, 5 people who abused DXM died and the 2 men who sold the DXM over the Internet to them were arrested.

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