Is DXM Addictive?

Get the answer to the question “Is DXM Addictive?”

Is DXM Addictive? The answer is yes. You’ll find DXM in a wide variety of medicines, used primarily as a pain reliever. It is most commonly used in cough medications, however, as it is highly effective in suppressing coughing. Most of the major over-the-counter cough medicine brands (such as Nyquil and Robitussin) use it as their primary ingredient for that purpose. So, given that it is legal for anyone to buy, is DXM addictive? Unfortunately, it can be if taken in overly large doses.

Even though it is available without a prescription, DXM is a form of an opioid. Opioids are usually controlled substances and require a prescription to obtain, but DXM is available over the counter as medical science widely agrees that it presents a small risk of dependence and physical addiction. It is considered a safer alternative to codeine, which is also used to suppress a cough but has a much more significant addictive potential.

That’s at normal pharmaceutical doses, however. Though it is a weak opioid, it can still be used to get high, but users have to take extremely large doses. DXM abusers may take doses up to 50 times or more of what is recommended for medicinal use. With these larger doses, they begin to experience some of the euphorias that stronger opioids bring on. At very large doses it can also cause hallucinations and psychoactive effects similar to those of ketamine.

Is DXM Addictive?

Though the risk is considered low for normal medicinal use, recreational users who are taking these huge doses regularly are at a much greater risk of developing a cough syrup addiction. Though it is weaker than most, DXM is nevertheless an opioid and can still cause similar withdrawal symptoms and cravings if it is abused for long enough and in large enough doses.

The large doses needed to be seen in cases of dextromethorphan abuse also present significant health risks beyond the development of physical dependency. Recreational users commonly report problems with their vision, vomiting, gastrointestinal disturbance, fever and excessive sweating. More dangerous possibilities include hypertension or hypotension, tachycardia, muscle spasms and blackouts. The risks become greater still if the DXM is mixed with other substances, as is sometimes the case when it is abused. Mixing DXM with other psychedelic drugs or alcohol can compound the health risks. If enough strong depressants are mixed together there is a significant risk of death by respiratory depression. While DXM is considered very safe at normal medicinal doses, it becomes highly unpredictable when mixed with other controlled medicines or illicit substances.

How to Tell if Someone is Abusing DXM

Is DXM Addictive? DXM is most frequently abused by teenagers and adolescents, due to this age group’s inherent difficulties in accessing stronger illegal drugs. Since the doses needed for recreational use are so large, they will go through a suspicious amount of cough syrup or pills in a short amount of time. Since it is legal to sell without a prescription, recreational abusers may turn to buying DXM in its pure pill or powder form over the internet. The powder is white in color and will usually be taken orally, though some users have been found injecting it in some cases.

While high, DXM abusers will usually be lethargic and may appear disoriented. They may also have trouble moving around and speaking. The effects can last up to six hours from ingestion of a large dose.

How is DXM Abuse Treated?

A period of initial detox is usually advised if the person is still under the influence of the substance or is feeling withdrawal symptoms. Since DXM does not usually cause strong physical dependency, outpatient treatment (in which patients live at home while visiting the rehab facility for appointments throughout the week) is usually the best course of action. Most people who abuse DXM can be expected to make a full recovery in a fairly short period of time provided they stick to their treatment and rehab plan.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.