Recently here at Serenity Thailand Rehab Center we have had several young men in the center that have been introduced to DXM. Of course working in with people of all ages who are experiencing addiction related issues we have been well aware of DXM abuse in teens for a long time, what we find however is that very few parents know much about DXM and don't even think to look for it or know what it even is for that matter.
Understanding DXM Abuse in Teens
DXM or dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant that is found in many over the counter cough and cold remedies. DXM was first introduced in the USA in the 1950's and is effective and reasonably safe for what it is ment to be used for. It is an ingredient in many brands of cough, cold and flu medicines that you are probably aware of, such as Dimetapp, Robitussin, Vick's and many more. It can be found in syrups, gelcaps, tablets, lozenges and capsules.
“A lot of parents just have no idea,” says Deborah Levine MD, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. “Alarms would sound if they ever found an empty beer can in a teenager’s car, but they wouldn’t think twice about an empty bottle of cough syrup or used-up package of tablets.”
In normal dosage DXM is quite safe with few if any side effects and we have probably all benefited from it at one point or another. Where it becomes a problem is when the dosage is drastically increased, in the order of 10 to 50 times that which is recommended.
At these levels it is can drastically effect the cognitive functioning of the brain and cause dissociative effects similar to ketamine as well as hallucinations.
Being legal in most places, cheap and easy to get in any pharmacy or department store DXM can pose a significant risk for teen drug abuse as well as accidents and all the other harm that comes along with any abuse of drugs or alcohol.
In a California Poison Control System study it found a 10 fold increase in DMX - dextromethorphan abuse cases from 1999 till 2004 with 74.5% of the cases youths aged 9 to 17 years and the largest majority between 15 & 16 years old. The most commonly abused OTC product was Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold Tablets. It is believed that the capsules or tablets are preferred over the syrup since drinking the required amount of DXM in syrup form can cause nausea and vomiting. In tablet or capsule form ingesting enough dextromethorphan for the desired effect is much easier.
DXM Abuse and Symptoms
Some of the symptoms associated with teen DXM abuse are sweating, fever, impaired vision, increased or irregular heart rate, Vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, slurred speech, memory loss, rapid eye movement, hallucinations, dissociative effects, memory loss and even potentially coma and death.
In 2009 there were 5 reported cases of DXM - dextromethorphan related deaths in the United States, all cases had traces of other drugs in the individuals as well.
What to do if Your Teen is Abusing DXM
First thing as always with teen drug abuse, be it DXM or any other drug for that matter, is an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Educate yourself on the effects, sighs and symptoms of teen DXM abuse and keep your eyes open for cough syrup and table packaging left around. Also educate your children on the dangers associated with DXM abuse the same as you would for alcohol or any other drug. Knowledge in this case is your best ally and talking with your kids and being approachable about drug use and abuse can go a long ways to not having the problem in the first place.
If you do find that your teen is abusing DXM then you are going to need to take action at this point, from studies most teens stop using DXM before 20, however only because they move on to more effective drugs and in the DXM subculture it is looked at as a teen drug and beneath the older crowd. If your teen is abusing DXM, there is a very good chance that without some form of intervention they are going to move onto other risky behavior. A program like Serenity - Samui Rehab Center can be an excellent option for helping the teen deal with their DXM abuse and hopefully to avoid risk taking and drug abuse in the future. If that is not an option then seek a psychologist or counsellor that specializes in adolescence and youth.
No matter which route you take however you will need to do something if you find that your teen is abusing DXM or any other drug for that matter, not doing anything will have zero results and the behavior will most likely continue and get worse over time.
Don't hesitate to contact us if your teen is experiencing issues with DXM or other drug abuse, we can help.