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DXMDextromethorphan, or DXM, is an ingredient that is widely used in cough-suppressing and anti-cold drugs that people can get over-the-counter. The drug is supposed to be used when people have a cold or are not feeling well and should be used in small doses. The problem with this is that many people have started using this drug for more than its intended purpose. There are a large number of abusers of DXM because it can be found at any local store or pharmacy, and no one needs a prescription to use it.

About DXM

Beginning in the 1950s, the cough suppressant is known as dextromethorphan became a primary ingredient in many different OTC cough medications. When taken according to manufacturer instructions, cold and cough preparations containing dextromethorphan, or DXM, cause little to no side effects. These products are readily available because of the safety and effectiveness of the formulation. However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, by 2013, DXM became the fifth most popularly abused substance. On surveys completed by students aged 14 or older, more than 5% admitted to abusing cough medications containing DXM.

Common Slang Names

DXM might also be referred to as Dex, Robo, Skittles, Triple C or Tussin.


Consumed orally, the substance is commonly found in liquid cough syrups, cough, and cold tablets or gel capsules. Dextromethorphan is also found in a powered form on some Internet sites. When abused in a conventional cough and cold formulations, individuals may also receive excessive dosages of acetaminophen, antihistamines or decongestants. Some preparations also contain alcohol.

What is Dextromethorphan?

Dextromethorphan is a mild anesthetic. However, when taken in large quantities, the substances has dissociative effects similar to Ketamine or PCP and may produce hallucinations. Possible side effects depend on the amount of DXM taken.

DXM Side Effects

Common effects include:

  • Abdominal pain accompanied by nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired physical coordination
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Numbing of the fingers and toes
  • Slurred speech

Chronic abusers report achieving variable plateaus that range from mild color and sound distortions to extensive visual hallucinations and the feeling of having “out-of-body” sensations. When chronically abused in formulations containing acetaminophen, liver damage may occur. When combined with antihistamines, individuals may experience unconsciousness and dangerously decreased vital signs. In conjunction with preparations containing decongestants, the stimulating effects may cause hypoxic brain damage, heart attacks or strokes.

Also, while under the influence of DXM, and other ingredients commonly found in cold and cough preparations, individuals often exhibit poor decision-making skills that lead to dangerous behaviors that may include operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated or having unsafe intimate relations.

Factors that Determine if Someone has a Drug Abuse Problem

  • Someone who operates a vehicle while under the influence
  • Must be under the influence to relax, improve self-esteem or to belong to a particular social group
  • Use DXM when alone
  • Cannot remember events that took place while under the effect of DXM
  • Family or friends express concern over behaviors or substance use
  • Experience legal trouble secondary to behaviors exhibited while under the effect of DXM
Importance of Inpatient Treatment

Similar to other medical conditions, addiction is a chronic disorder. While a select few have the ability to stop taking DXM cold turkey, or require minimal treatment, the majority of individuals who experience addiction must receive therapy for a longer period of time at a rehabilitation center. Some may relapse after receiving treatment. However, often times, the individual may merely need further therapy or modified treatment options. As is the case with a variety of medical conditions, adequate treatment often requires adjustments and alterations to individualize therapy. In the long run, receiving treatment ensures long-term health and well-being without a life bound by addiction.

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