In This Article:

A Brief Overview of DXM

  • By: Andrew Easler, Esq.
  • Published: Sep, 17 2016
  • Updated: Dec, 20 2022

Dextromethorphan – more commonly called DXM – is an FDA approved substance that is the active ingredient in most over-the-counter cough medicines. When taken according to the instructions on the label, it is considered safe and effective for suppressing coughs and allowing those suffering from congestion to get some rest and relief. Some users take DXM in excess, though, and this can be highly dangerous.

Drug Details – What Is DXM?

DXM is the main active ingredient to suppress coughing in most over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. Like ketamine and PCP, it falls in the category of dissociative anesthetics. This makes it highly effective in small doses, giving an anesthetic effect to calm a persistent cough, and relaxing the user so that they can rest and recover.

Unlike other drugs, DXM has only one known delivery system – swallowing. Those looking to abuse the drug may buy it in the form of cough medicine and ignore the recommended dosage. It is also available in a pure powder form, which is most often found on the Internet or on the street.

Another thing that sets DXM apart from other illicit drugs is that it is not scheduled by the DEA. However, some cough medicines (those with “less than 200 milligrams of codeine per 100 milliliters”) are DEA Schedule V drugs. Thus, some medicines that contain DXM may be scheduled, despite the fact that DXM itself is not. In most cases, though, DXM is used as a substitute for codeine in cough medicine, so most of Schedule V cough suppressants do not contain DXM.

A Brief History of DXM

DXM was first synthesized and put into use in cough medicine in the 1950s. As we mentioned a moment ago, it was first developed to replace codeine in these drugs, as there had been a rise in abuse of cough medicines containing codeine. For a few years, there was no known abuse of DXM, but by the 1960s, there had been some reports of abuse.

DXM abuse did not become widespread until the late 1990s. At that time and since then, most users seem to be adolescents seeking an easily accessible high. DXM is inexpensive, readily available, and unscheduled, making it potentially the easiest mind-altering substance for teens to get their hands on.

Street Names for DXM

Some of the most common street names for DXM are:

  • Robo
  • Triple C
  • Poor Man’s PCP
  • Syrup
  • Tussin
  • Poor Man’s X
  • Orange Crush
  • Dex
  • Drex

Terms used to describe using DXM also include:

  • Robo-tripping
  • Tussing
  • Skittling
  • Robo-fizzing
  • Robo-dosing
  • Dexing

Side Effects of Using DXM

Taking DXM in excess can result in a number of negative side effects, including but not limited to:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness in extremities
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Impaired coordination
  • Over-sedation
  • Liver damage

Continued use of DXM, especially in combination with the other ingredients found in cough medicine, can lead to serious illness, and it may even be fatal.

What Does the High From DXM Feel Like?

DXM users report that the high can be very intense. Like that of other dissociative anesthetics, the user may have hallucinations and may feel as though they are having an out-of-body experience. They may also feel detached from their surroundings, and they may have a sense of heaviness in their limbs or the feeling of floating or flying.

Though it is not scheduled by the DEA, DXM is a potentially dangerous (and even deadly) drug. It is made even more dangerous by the fact that other ingredients in cough medicine may be dangerous when taken in improper doses.

The information on this page may have changed since we first published it. We give great legal advice, but this page (and the rest of our site) is for informational use only and is no substitute for actual legal advice. If you’d like to establish an attorney-client relationship, reach out to us and we’ll tell you how we can make it official. Sending us an email or reading this page alone doesn’t mean we represent you.

Share This Publication