FAQ's About Dextromethorphan (DXM).

As a parent, you do your best to teach your kids right from wrong and to keep them safe from harm. You already know about the dangers of illegal street drugs like marijuana or methamphetamine and you've probably talked with your kids about living a healthy, drug-free life. But did you know that some teens are abusing legal products, like cough medicine containing dextromethorphan, to get high?

Dextromethorphan-based cough medicine has increasingly become the drug of choice for many young people in recent years. The medicine is easy to obtain and, currently, very few people understand the dangers of dextromethorphan abuse. It is a common misconception that cough medicine is somehow safer than other drugs.

Education is an important step in the prevention of dextromethorphan abuse. Kids who say they learn a lot about the risks of drugs at home are up to 50 percent less likely to try drugs. This article offers answers to common questions about dextromethorphan. Parents are encouraged to not only share this information with their kids, but to use these frequently asked questions as a tool for creating a dialog on drug abuse.

What is cough medicine abuse?

Cough medicine abuse is taking extremely large doses of cough medicine to get high. The high is caused by ingesting a large amount of dextromethorphan, which is often abbreviated as DXM, a common ingredient found in many cough medications. This sort of abuse whether its called cough medicine abuse, or dextromethorphan or DXM abuse can be dangerous.

What is dextromethorphan?

Dextromethorphan is a safe and effective active ingredient found in many nonprescription cough syrups, tablets, and gel caps. When used according to medicine label directions, the ingredient dextromethorphan produces few side effects and has a long history of safety. When abused in large amounts, it can produce a high feeling as well as a number of dangerous side effects.

What are the effects of cough medicine abuse?

The effects of the abuse of cough medicines containing dextromethorphan vary with the amount taken. Common effects include confusion, dizziness, double or blurred vision, slurred speech, loss of physical coordination, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, rapid heart beat, drowsiness, numbness of the fingers and toes, and disorientation. Dextromethorphan abusers describe different plateaus ranging from mild distortions of color and sound to visual hallucinations, out-of-body dissociative sensations, and loss of motor control.

Side effects can be worsened if the dextromethorphan-containing cough medication being abused also contains other ingredients to treat more than just coughs, such as acetaminophen. Cough medicine also is sometimes abused in combination with other medications, alcohol, and illegal drugs, which can increase the dangerous side effects.

Could a person die from taking cough medicine?

At high enough doses, dextromethorphan alone can suppress the central nervous system. If that happens, your brain can stop telling your lungs to breathe. Some drugs that people take to get the dextromethorphan high also include other ingredients which can interact in your body and have dangerous consequences. And remember, extremely high doses of dextromethorphan can induce a hallucinatory state which can lead to "accidents" that result in death.

What cough medicines contain dextromethorphan, or DXM?

There are well over 100 over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that contain dextromethorphan, either as the only active ingredient or in combination with other active ingredients. Some examples include Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold & Cough Medicine, Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold, Dayquil LiquiCaps, Dimetapp DM, Robitussin cough products, Sudafed cough products, Triaminic cough syrups, Tylenol Cold products, Vicks 44 Cough Relief products, and Vicks Nyquil LiquiCaps. There also are a number of store brands that contain dextromethorphan.

To know if a product contains DXM, look for dextromethorphan in the active ingredient section of the OTC Drug Facts label.

What are slang terms for dextromethorphan?

Slang terms for dextromethorphan vary by product and region. Adults should be familiar with the most common terms, which include Dex, DXM, Robo, Skittles, Syrup, Triple-C, and Tussin. Terms for using dextromethorphan to get high include: Robo-ing, Robo-tripping, and Skittling, among others.

How common is cough medicine abuse?

Recent research indicates that the abuse of dextromethorphan-based cough medicine is a greater problem than previously thought. The research show that one out of 10 teens, or over 2.4 million teens, from across the country and of all backgrounds, has abused cough medicine to get high. Often, these teens are finding information about cough medicine abuse on the Internet.

Where are teens finding information about cough medicine abuse?

There is little in current teen culture music, movies, fashion, and entertainment that promotes or even mentions cough medicine abuse. The one exception is the Internet.

A number of disreputable websites promote the abuse of cough medicines containing dextromethorphan. The information on these sites includes recommendations on how much to take, suggestions for other drugs to combine with dextromethorphan, instructions on how to extract dextromethorphan from cough medicines, and promote drug abuse in general.

How can Parents Help?

Parents should be aware of what their teen is doing on the Internet, the websites he or she visits, and the amount of time he or she is logged on.

Research shows that parents do influence their teens decisions about whether to take drugs or not. In order to talk credibly and effectively about the dangers of dextromethorphan, you'll need to know what those dangers are. Remember that the best defense is truly a good offense by educating yourself, safeguarding your medications and communicating with your teens, you can protect your family and help prevent dextromethorphan abuse.