You may have heard some of the DXM street names tossed around. These pop up often in hip hop and rap lyrics, and are terms used among teens who might be abusing the over-the-counter drug, dextromethorphan, recreationally. The DXM street names include skittles, Robo, cousin, Purple Drank, sizzurp, red devil, triple C, Poor Man’s PCP, red hots, orange crush, lean, tussing, dexing, and more. Slang terms for the abuse of cough and cold medicines seem to be never-ending.
Someone unfamiliar with DXM abuse may not understand how cough syrup would be used as a recreational drug of abuse. Interestingly, this particular abuse is not new, originating in the 1950s with the initial introduction of dextromethorphan. Even back then, over 60 years ago, people were abusing this remedy for coughs and colds.
Although it was once taken off the market due to abuse, it reemerged on drug store shelves and is now a favorite among teens and young adults. There are 100 products on the market that contain DXM, often highly accessible to young people looking for a cheap high. However, at the retail level, due to theft and abuse of these products, they are now often kept behind the counter curbing abuse of this drug to some degree.
What Is DXM?
Dextromethorphan (DXM) is an antitussive cough suppressant that is available in the form of lozenges, syrup, tablets, and spray. Some of the popular brands include Robitussin ER, Delsym, Vicks DayQuil Cough, and Dimetapp, Tylenol Cold, and Coricidin Cough and Cold, some of which have led to various DXM street names. The drug is often combined with acetaminophen, chlorpheniramine, and other medications, which can result in dangerous health risks when abused.
DXM is an NMDA receptor antagonist that, when taken in high doses, can have similar effects to ketamine and PCP. These effects include:
- A sense of euphoria
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Vivid imagination
- Dissociative effects, brain fog
- Change in the perception of gravity
- Alterations of consciousness
- Temporary psychosis
- Sensory input speeding up or slowing down
Mixing DXM with Other Drugs
Abusing DXM with other drugs only compounds the dangers of DXM abuse. For example, when abusing alcohol or benzos and DXM the central nervous system is depressed, potentially causing a decreased respiratory rate. Combining DXM with stimulants, such as cocaine or Adderall, can lead to increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure. Purple Drank, one of the DXM street names mentioned above, is concocted by mixing prescription strength cough syrup that has codeine in it with soda and can pose serious health risks.
Long-Term Effects of DXM can be serious. Someone who abuses this drug over a long period can end up with liver damage, mainly due to the acetaminophen, which can be toxic to the liver. Mood disorders can result from long-term DXM abuse, as well as cognitive impairment. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience reported that cognitive deterioration is a result of prolonged abuse of DXM.
Warning Signs of DXM Abuse
Recognizing the signs of DXM abuse can result in getting the individual the help needed to overcome the substance abuse before addiction takes hold. Some of the signs of someone potentially abusing DXM include:
- The individual appears to be drunk but without the smell of alcohol on them
- Exhibiting symptoms of DXM abuse, such as euphoria, hyperactivity, loss of coordination, experiencing hallucinations or an out of body sensation
- Finding multiple bottles of cough syrup or packages of cough suppressants in tablet or lozenge form
- Being caught stealing these products from the story
- Chronic use of these DXM-related products unrelated to being sick
- Increase in tolerance to the effects, resulting in using more of the products
- Risk-taking behaviors, such as mixing the DXM with other drugs of abuse, driving under the influence, shoplifting
- Managing stress by abusing DXM
Between 2004-2011, emergency room visits related to DXM abuse almost doubled.
Getting Treatment for DXM Abuse and Addiction
Signs that DXM abuse has become a serious issue includes developing cravings for this drug, continuing to need more of the drug to experience the initial high, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using DXM. When it becomes apparent that DXM abuse has worsened, possibly becoming an addiction, getting the right professional help is key.
If the individual has a long history of abusing DXM they may need to first undergo detox and withdrawal. It is always recommended to undergo detox with supervision. With someone watching over the process the individual is more likely to stick with it and complete the detox. Also, the detox provider will monitor withdrawal symptoms and assist with medications that help relieve the symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Bone and muscle pain
- Foggy thinking
- Cravings for the drug, compulsions to get more of the drug
- Cold flashes
Following detox, a long-term rehab treatment program, either outpatient or residential, will provide the necessary addiction treatment. Cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) can be very useful to someone who is attempting to overcome the addictive behaviors. CBT helps the individual identify their thought distortions that keep them chained to using this drug, and then changing those toward developing new healthy habits and responses to triggers. Family therapy, group therapy, and acquiring coping skills and recovery tools are included in a comprehensive treatment program.
Solutions 4 Recovery Provides Comprehensive Treatment for DXM Abuse
Solutions 4 Recovery is a South Orange County rehab and dual diagnosis treatment center that treats individuals with a DXM problem. Generally, individuals who regularly abuse DXM may also have additional substance abuse issues, which can all be treated concurrently at Solutions 4 Recovery.
At Solutions 4 Recovery, our clinical team goes to great lengths to provide the utmost in care for treating addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions. Integrating several treatment elements into an individually designed treatment plan, all aspects of the person are addressed. Our treatment elements include a mix of traditional evidence-based therapies, adjunctive therapies, and holistic therapies for the best recovery outcomes. To learn more about our program, please reach out to Solutions 4 Recovery today at (888) 417-1874.