Dextromethorphan (DXM) is a cough suppressant that is commonly added to cough and cold medications such as Nyquil and Robitussin. As cough syrups and cold medications are widely available, as well as other over the counter (OTC) drugs, teens find easy access to this drug. Using an excessive amount of DXM produces a similar high as the illegal drug PCP. The short term effects of abusing cough and cold medications results in delusions, hallucinations, and an altered sense of reality. It is estimated that as many as 1 in every 10 high school students has taken high doses of cough or cold medications with the purpose of getting high.
Due to the fact that there is easy access to cough syrups and cold medications, it is difficult to prevent teens from experimenting with DXM. In some places, there are laws that prohibit the selling of cough syrups to minors under the age of 18. In addition, parents are encouraged to keep these types of drugs in a safe place, outside of the medicine cabinet, and talk to their teens about the dangers of misusing them. Many teens view DXM as a drug that is relatively safe, because it is legal and sold in stores. However, using cold and cough medications to get high can pose some serious health consequences.
DXM affects the brain directly and has the ability to alter many of the organ systems. Dizziness, difficulty breathing, memory loss, seizures, an irregular heart rhythm, extreme changes in blood pressure, and even coma or death can result. In addition, Cough and cold syrups and other medications commonly contain a combination of ingredients that may include acetaminophen, a drug for headaches, pain, and fever. In high doses, acetaminophen is toxic to the body and can cause significant damage to the liver. Overall, DXM poses significant danger to those who abuse it. Parents need to be aware of this growing trend and watchful for teen DMX abuse in their homes.