Dextromethorphan (DXM) is an active ingredient found in most cough medicines and is used as a cough suppressant. DXM is a legal drug that can be purchased by anyone, including preteens in most states. Over-the-counter medications, such as Vicks, Robitussin, and NyQuil contain DXM and are used to relieve a cold-related cough. Many people abuse medications containing DXM to get high and develop an addiction. A normal drug test will not detect the drug, which encourages more people to use it.

In an article on over-the-counter medications, the NIH explained that, “At high doses, a person may have hallucinations or feelings of physical distortion, extreme panic, paranoia, anxiety, and aggression.” The NIH also stated that it is possible to overdose on DXM, which could lead to an early death.

The other ingredients in these medications can cause liver damage, seizures or coma, vomiting, loss coordination, and fast heart rate. Some people who abuse DXM separate the other ingredients using chemicals, which can be easy to attain. Certain websites sell pure DXM powder, making it more convenient and accessible without the side effects of acetaminophen and guaifenesin.

Teens are susceptible to addiction, especially when they experiment with drugs or alcohol. Addiction causes harmful effects on a teen’s brain, which does not finish developing and growing until he or she is their lower to mid-twenties. Teens are impulsive and often do not consider the consequences of their actions. DXM abuse affects critical thinking, awareness, coordination, movement, and speech, as with most substances heightens reckless behavior and results in organ failure, overdose, or early death.

Here are signs to look for if you suspect your teen is abusing cough medicine:

  • Empty bottles or containers of medicine in your teen’s room or backpack
  • Large amounts of cough syrup purchased when not sick
  • Visits to websites that promote DXM abuse
  • Slang used for DXM, such as skittles, tussin, robo-trippin, or dexxing
  • Changes in routine or interests
  • Hostile attitude and mood changes

DXM is easily accessible to anyone. As with other drugs and alcohol, DXM abuse can cause physical and mental health complications, overdose, and death. If you or a loved one is struggling with a DXM addiction, you are not alone. Get help today.

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