Popular culture and media is bringing the issue of cough medicine abuse to light. Unfortunately, rather than presenting the dangers of abusing or mixing cough medication, many forms of media tend to glorify the drug. It is reported that 1 in 20 teens have taken DXM to achieve a recreational high. Some users choose to take the stance that its a ‘better’ addiction than alcohol or opioids- however, abusing any medication carries serious risks and consequences. Increasingly, people are experimenting with a combination of DXM and kratom.
What is DXM?
Dextromethorphan or more commonly known as a DXM is an over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medication. DXM is from a derivative of morphine, a very powerful opioid, but is not technically an opioid. Due to the effects it can have, it behaves like an opioid without the painkilling effects. It is effective at suppressing the average cough and creates some sedation which can help sick individuals relax or fall asleep. Unfortunately, when taken in much higher doses, DXM sometimes causes individuals to experience a euphoric high which is then sought after.
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), DXM is an antitussive (a type of medication used to stop a cough) found in over 120 cold medications (such as Vicks 44, NyQuil, Robitussin). The typical dosage is 15-30mg taken 3-4 times a day. When abused however, individuals can end up taking 100-1500mg a day. The DEA provides a ranking of “plateaus” which describes how users can manipulate different doses to achieve different effects.
- 100-200mg → Mild stimulation
- 200-400mg → Euphoria and hallucinations
- 300-600mg → Distorted visual perceptions, loss of motor coordination
- 500-1500mg → Dissociative sedation
The DEA will schedule certain drugs it deems to be dangerous and hazardous to the public’s health under its own classification system. For example, Methamphetamine is considered a schedule 1 drug and therefore is very dangerous. DXM is not classified under this system. It is typically found in liquid form but illicit websites and users have begun selling the drug in capsule or powder form.
DXM Side Effects
Some side effects of DXM include:
- Rashes or red, blotchy skin (not an allergic reaction)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of coordination
- Slurred speech
- Impaired judgment
- Reduced cognitive ability
- Nystagmus, or rapid eye movements
- Visual disturbances
- Liver damage
In high doses, the effects of DXM mimic those of Ketamine and PCP. A DXM overdose is possible if an individual takes enough of it. Given its suppressive effects, it can cause slowed breathing and critical organ function.
How Long Does DXM Stay In Your System?
Testing for DXM is rare because of its common use as a cough suppressant. However, the drug can trigger false positives for PCP. DXM has a half-life of around 4 hours. A substance’s half-life is the time it takes for the chemical to reduce to 50% of its original size. Given its half-life elimination time, it can be assumed that most users can get rid of the chemical around 16.5 and 33 hours. While the chemical itself may be gone, this does not mean that traces cannot be tested for.
DXM can be detected in:
- Urine 24-48 hours after ingestion
- Blood 3-24 hours after ingestion
- Saliva does not apply as most OTC medications are taken orally
- Hair up to 90 days after ingestion
What is Kratom?
Kratom is a plant found in Southeast Asia which is beginning to find its way into U.S. markets. Its leaves contain a chemical which produces a psychotropic (mind-altering) effect. The use of kratom is still pretty minimal in the U.S. but as of now, there is no nationwide ban or enforcement of the drug. In fact, most users can buy it online, although some states have banned the substance. According to the National Poison Data System, between 2011-2017 there were 11 deaths associated with kratom use.
Kratom’s effects are unpredictable. It is possible to use as a stimulant in lower doses, but can also have a heavy sedative effect when taken in higher doses. The lack of research on the effects of kratom makes it difficult to fully understand the negative side-effects. However, users can expect to experience:
- Disrupted sleep
- Increased energy and alertness
- Cough suppression
- Pain reduction
- Weight loss
While not all of these effects are necessarily negative, some negative short-term effects include:
- Nausea and vomiting
How Long Does Kratom Stay In Your System?
There is currently no drug test for kratom. However, the duration of the chemicals presence in your body lasts due to:
- Frequency of use
- Body fat
- Metabolic rate
Mixing DXM and Kratom
It is possible to abuse both DXM and kratom to provide a sedative effect on the mind and body. While DXM may do a better job at this than kratom, mixing the two substances can greatly enhance the suppression effects. If taken at the same time, bodily function and critical organs may slow down to a dangerously low point, putting the user at risk of an overdose. The use of Naloxone has been proven to work against a patient overdosing on DXM and may save their life.
Cough syrup addiction and the tendency to mix it with other drugs as seen in popular culture presents a serious risk to those who do not understand the dangers. If you or a loved one is struggling with cough syrup abuse or addiction, please contact us today so we can begin the journey to a sober life.