Authored by Amy Kershisnik, LCSW – Family Therapist
Did you know roughly 1 in 30 teens reports abusing DXM to get high? Dextromethorphan (DXM) is an ingredient found in many over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines. When taken as directed, these medicines can be safe; however when taken in excessive amounts these medicines can be mind-altering, and may affect the brain in similar ways as illegal drugs.
Some teens might think taking higher amounts of OTC medication is safe, but abusing DXM can cause side effects such as: vomiting, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, disorientation, loss of coordination, numbness, and increased blood pressure. Also, brain damage can occur when there is lack of oxygen to the brain, if DXM is taken with decongestants. Additionally, OTC medicines are even more dangerous when mixed with other drugs or alcohol, and can result in addiction with repeated abuse of high doses.
Suggested prevention advice for parents and guardians:
- Know what medication is in your home. Keep all medication in one location and consider taking an inventory
- Check your medicine cabinet regularly and notice if pills or bottles are missing.
- Listen up! Common slang terms for abusing OTC cough medicine include: robo, robotripping, tussin, triple c, dex, skittles, candy, velvet, and drank
- Look for possible signs of abuse by paying attention to changes in your teen’s behaviors, moods, and friends
- Talk with your teen about abusing drugs, alcohol and OTC medicine. Ask open-ended questions and be open for discussion. Share your values and beliefs and educate your teen on the risks of drug abuse
If someone you know is in crisis and needs someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. Someone is there to talk to you about suicide and other serious issues. Also, consider speaking to a mental health professional and get your teen in counseling if needed. Salt Lake County Youth Services also offers substance abuse assessment and treatment. For a list of counselors that can help please go to: http://slco.org/youth/programs/counseling/