What is Dextromethorphan or DXM?

Dextromethorphan (DXM) is the active ingredient found in many over-the-counter cough and cold medicines including syrups, tablets, and gel caps. When taken as directed, products containing DXM produce few side effects and have a long history of safety. But when abused in large amounts, these products can cause dissociative hallucinations as well as a number of dangerous side effects.

Dextromethorphan was introduced in the United States in the 1950s, primarily as a safe and effective cough suppressant ingredient. It is used for the temporary relief of cough caused by minor throat and bronchial irritations as well as those resulting from inhaled particle irritants. Dextromethorphan also has other medicinal uses ranging from pain relief to psychological applications. It is sold in syrup, tablet, spray, and lozenge forms. In its pure form, DXM occurs as a white powder. The typical adult dose for cough is 15 or 30 mg taken three to four times a day. The cough-suppressing effects of DXM last 5 to 6 hours after taken.

There are over 100 over-the-counter medicines that contain DXM, either as the only active ingredient or in combination with other active drug ingredients. To know if a product contains DXM, look for “dextromethorphan” in the active ingredient section of the over-the-counter drug facts label. You also may look for an educational icon on the packaging of most over-the-counter cough medicines containing dextromethorphan. Examples of products containing DXM include:

  • Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold & Cough Formula
  • Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold
  • Dimetapp® DM
  • Mucinex® DM tablets
  • PediaCare cough medicines
  • Robitussin® cough products
  • Sudafed cough products
  • TheraFlu cough products
  • Triaminic cough products
  • Tylenol Cough and Tylenol Cold products
  • Vicks 44 Cough Relief products
  • Vicks DayQuil and NyQuil LiquiCaps

The most common slang terms for dextromethorphan include CCC, Dex, DXM, Poor Man’s PCP, Robo, Rojo, Skittles, Syrup, Triple C, Tussin, and Velvet. Illicit use of DXM is referred to on the street as ” robo-ing,” “robo-tripping,” “skittling” or “dexing.”




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