Dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant that is available in over-the-counter cough medications. Dextromethorphan (DXM) is the active ingredient in most OTC cough medicines. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the 1950s, DXM is the most widely used cough suppressant ingredient in the United States. When taken according to labeling instructions, medicines that contain DXM are safe and effective. However, when taken in excessive amounts higher than recommended doses, DXM can produce dangerous side effects.Because it is a legal drug, it can be purchased by anyone, even a preteen, except in California. There, a minor cannot purchase a cough medication containing dextromethorphan (DXM).
The symptoms that result from DXM abuse depend on how much of the medication is taken and whether another drug such as alcohol or marijuana is added to the mix. There are four plateaus of intoxication described by users of DXM. The first plateau is mild inebriation similar to drunkenness. The second is inebriation plus slurred speech and possibly mild hallucinations. Short-term memory can be impaired by the drug. The third level is an altered state of consciousness. Vision or other senses may be impaired. And in the fourth state, a person can lose contact with his (or her) body, with all senses shut off.
This level of intoxication is similar to that of ketamine or PCP. The therapeutic dosage for dextromethorphan, when treating a cold or cough, is 10 to 29 milligrams every four hours. But when seeking intoxication, a person may take 250 to 1,500 milligrams of the drug at one time. The symptoms above may be accompanied by confusion, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fast heartbeat, stomach pain and disorientation.