Teen DXM Abuse

Teen DXM Abuse is on the rise. DXM, or dextromethorphan, is found in most over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. Because DXM can be bought legally and is easy to get, teens don't realize how dangerous it is. Help your teen realize the dangers of DXM.

Teen abuse of DXM is on the rise, and parents need to learn more about the effects and symptoms of using this dangerous drug to help prevent their teen from overdosing on it.

Teens are abusing dextromethorphan, also known as DXM, at increasing rates, and while parents may not recognize the name of this drug, they probably have it in their homes. Dextromethorphan is the active ingredient in many over-the-counter drugs, or non-prescription, cough and cold medicines. In small doses, DXM is considered safe, but in large doses it can be addictive and deadly.

Teen drug statistics indicate, about 1 in 10, or over 2 million, teens abuses DXM. Most of them think that because it is legal to buy cough and cold medicines, it must not be dangerous to abuse DXM. DXM abuse is dangerous, and it’s even worse when teens overdose on medicines that contain other drugs, such as antihistamines or acetaminophen, mix DXM with other drugs or alcohol, or get DXM from the Internet.

DXM is easy for teens to abuse because they can often get it in their own home or in the homes of their friends, or buy it at the store for just a couple of dollars. Often they drink or ingest large amounts of cold medicines, though they may also extract the DXM from the medicine, or buy it in extracted form, and snort it.

The Internet is a major source of information about DXM abuse for teens. Some web sites tell them how to abuse the drug and sell them DXM. Teens may not realize that they can’t trust the accuracy of all the information they get from the Internet, and that pills that they buy on the Internet may not be what they think they are getting.

Effects of teen DXM abuse

DXM causes a high that may feel like being drunk. Some of the possible effects of teen DXM abuse include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of control of motor skills and dizziness
  • “Out of body” sensations
  • Confusion and inability to think clearly
  • Blurred vision
  • Sweating and very high fever
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea, stomach pain, and vomiting
  • Numbness
  • Headache
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Lethargy
  • Itchiness
  • Panic attacks
  • Passing out
  • Seizures
  • Brain damage
  • Addiction
  • Death

Cough medicines that contain drugs in addition to DXM can cause more problems, including dehydration and organ damage.

Signs of teen DXM abuse

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if teens are abusing drugs because some of the symptoms of drug abuse are similar to normal changes and mood swings teens go through. Some of the things parents can watch for include:

  • Sudden, extreme changes in clothing, friends, grooming, eating, or sleeping habits
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Declining grades
  • Visiting web sites that promote drugs
  • Unexplained disappearance of money or valuables
  • Finding stashes of medicine bottles (full or empty) or pills
  • Smelling like medicine or chemicals

Teens may also use slang for DXM, such as:

  • Candy
  • Dex
  • DM
  • Red devil
  • Robo
  • Rojo
  • Skittles
  • Syrup
  • Triple C or CCC
  • Tussin
  • Vitamin D

A person who abuses DXM may be called a “syrup head,” and using DXM to get high can be called:

  • Dexing
  • Robodosing
  • Roboing
  • Robotripping
  • Skittling

Parents who are concerned that their teens may be abusing DXM should calmly talk to their teens about their concerns and why abusing DXM can be dangerous. Teens who are addicted to DXM may need medical help or therapy to help them overcome their addiction.

DXM abuse prevention

There are a number of ways parents can help prevent teen DXM abuse. Some of these are:

  • Talk to your teens about not abusing drugs, including legal drugs, preferably early before you suspect there may be a problem. Teens really do listen to what their parents say, though they sometimes still make poor choices. Keeping open communication with your teen by asking lots of questions and really listening when they answer increases the chances that they will tell you if they have a problem and listen to your opinions.
  • Learn about DXM and other drugs that teens abuse so you can talk to your teen about their dangers and recognize the warning signs of abuse.
  • Know your teen’s friends and their parents, and ask lots of questions when they go out about where they will be and what they will be doing. Don’t let teens have lots of time without adult supervision, such as after school.
  • Keep track of the medications in your home. Don’t stockpile cold medicines or other drugs, and throw away expired medications. Keep medications locked up and don’t allow teens to self-medicate.
  • Monitor your teen’s computer use. The best way to do this is by keeping the computer in a busy part of the house and not allowing Internet use in bedrooms or late at night. If you want to use monitoring software, don’t rely on it exclusively, and tell the teen you are using it so he or she knows his or her online actions will be monitored.
  • Encourage teens to have positive goals and activities


The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, “Preventing Teen Cough Medicine Abuse” [online]

Nemours, KidsHealth, “Cough and Cold Medicine Abuse” [online]

Edie Magnus, Dateline NBC, “Addicted to cough medicine?” [online]

Related Article: Other Drugs Teenagers Abuse >>