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Drug Abuse: Cough and Cold Medicine

Updated on July 31, 2012

In the 1960s and 1970s, we had the marijuana plant and hallucinogens like LSD. In the 1980s, crack cocaine infested much of the United State's urban areas. In the 1990s, MDMA (ecstasy) and methamphetamines (crystal meth, speed) swept the nation. But the advent of the millennium has seen a new form of drug abuse rising in popularity among teenagers: the rapid consumption of over the counter cold and flu medication.

For $5.49 your child can enter the local pharmacy, purchase a 12-pack of DayQuil, swallow six capsules one after the other and within an hour be experiencing the cheapest, easiest trip available today. It's called "dexing", due to the presence of Dextromethorphan, the ingredient that, when used in excess, causes an alteration of consciousness. DXM is a main ingredient found in cough, cold and flu medications such as DayQuil, Sudafed, Coricidin, Robitussin and over 120 others.

Coricidin HBP capsules are the most commonly abused OTC product
Coricidin HBP capsules are the most commonly abused OTC product
When used as indicated, DXM (also known as "robo", "C", "triple C", "tussin") has little to no psychological effect; but studies show that teens are taking anywhere from 7 to 50 times the recommended dosage. It is highly popular among high schoolers because of it's affordable, available, and socially acceptable. Interviews conducted with people who have tried dexing also show that those abusing OTC meds don't consider it to be as taboo nor as dangerous as common street drugs.

According to, "DXM, when consumed in low recreational doses (usually under 200 mg), is often described as having a buoyant, vaguely psychedelic effect similar to a mixture of alcohol, opiates, and marijuana. This is often accompanied by a heightened appreciation for music, increased desire for socializing, and the feeling of floating. With higher doses, intense euphoria, vivid imagination, and closed-eye hallucinations may occur. With very high doses, profound alterations in consciousness have been noted, and users often report out-of-body experiences or temporary psychosis. Some find the effects of the drug to be immensely pleasurable, while others find that the drug produces dysphoria, panic, or dread."

Users will sometimes drink an entire bottle of Robitussin to obtain the effects of overusing DXM
Users will sometimes drink an entire bottle of Robitussin to obtain the effects of overusing DXM
The effects of recreational dosing generally last as long as medical dosing, approximately 8 hours. However, rapid consumption of extended-release capsules can last up to 12. No matter how much DXM is ingested, the result is the the effect of the drug will only be heightened, not lengthened. Used recreationally, effects are generally only temporary. However, prolonged use of the drug at high dosage rates can cause toxic psychosis or other psychological problems.

Recreational abusers of DXM describe four dose-dependent levels or "plateaus". The 1st plateau occurs at ingestion of 100-200mg and causes mild stimulation. The 2nd plateau at 200-400mg creates a feeling of euphoria and closed- or open-eyed hallucinations. The 3rd plateau, 300-600mg, brings about distorted visual perceptions, and the 4th and highest plateau, 500-1500mg, causes dangerous dissociative sedation. In 2004, abuse of DXM resulted in an estimated 12,584 hospital emergency room visits. Patients age 12-20 accounted for nearly half (48%) of these visits.

Even DayQuil can become a dangerous if ingested in large doses
Even DayQuil can become a dangerous if ingested in large doses
Many retailers and pharmacy chains are now taking steps to prevent adolescents from stealing and/or stockpiling boxes of OTC medications. They are putting procedures in place that make DXM products not so readily available. If you go to the shelf where DayQuil or Coricidin used to be located, you'll be greeted with a note saying, "Please see the pharmacist to purchase this product." In some states, you have to be over 18 (19 in New Jersey) to purchase any product containing DXM. In others, there is a limit of one box per customer. Retailers hope that this will decrease instances of theft as well as abuse of the drug.

The "fun" of Robotripping


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      elmer 7 years ago

      I've never tried (dexing) or whatever it's called but some addicts have very few choices. The cost of any kind of substance-abuse treatment is completely outrageous.If the DEA and all the other organizations want to help , they should GIVE suboxone to the people that really want help . I know people that have sold everything they own to get treatment...that,s BULLSHIT!

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      taylor 8 years ago

      this shit is fun as hell but it is terrible for you and i would only ever do once ina long while. no one should do this ever, especially not be addicted, just stay away from it, i know a man who was addicted to dxm for 6 months and he was sleeping in the cold half way through, it was a terrible experience for him and it would be a terrible experience for you so...

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      Jeff 8 years ago

      I have used cough syrup more than once.

      It is a very unusual drug when used as unrecommended.

      I do not condone that anyone do this drug for a high.

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      Amanda  8 years ago

      These pills have caused nothing but pain in my marriage and in my husbands life these pills were sent from hell it's it's obvious it's made the way into the military and our kids SOMEONE needs to do something about this because not only is it putting our families at risk it's our kids and our country if the military doesn't find some way to test for it because TROOPS are doing it as well GOOD EXAMPLE from you tube THOSE ARE FUCKING BARRACKS~!!!

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      cj 8 years ago

      right on bro those fuc--ing pig vand these dam dum ass laws we got have caused me so much f-ing trouble with my life .allthis shit because they want vto be in control of your dam life . if they could they make a law against taking a shit . don't worry it's coming. leagelize pot ho ra and that's not the f-ing marines

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      Jake 9 years ago

      dextromethophan was sent from heaven