DXM: Addicted to Cough Medicine

Most over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine contains an active ingredient known as dextromethorphan (DXM), which is used as a cough suppressant. Cough medicine is legal and can be purchased by anyone in most states. DXM is used to relieve a cold-related cough. Vicks, Robitussin, and NyQuil contain DXM and can be addictive. Many people use DXM because a normal drug test will not detect it. That encourages more people to use DXM, leading to addiction.

Risks of DXM Addiction

Using cough medicine in large doses can cause liver damage, seizures, vomiting, loss of coordination, and fast heart rate. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH, (2017), DXM is an opioid that does not act on the opioid receptors. When taken in large amounts, DXM can cause a hallucinogenic effect, similar to PCP and ketamine. “Repeatedly seeking to experience that feeling can lead to addiction – a chronic relapsing brain condition characterized by inability to stop using a drug despite damaging consequences to a person’s life and health.”

Teens and Addiction

Addiction and substance use disorders affect the way the brain functions. A teen’s brain is continues to develop and grow until they reach their lower to mid-twenties. Teens tend to be impulsive and often do not consider the consequences of their actions. Some fall prey to peer pressure. DXM abuse alters critical thinking, awareness, coordination, movement, and speech. Similar to most substances, DXM increases the risk of reckless behavior and results in organ failure, overdose, or early death.

Signs to look for if you suspect your loved one is misusing cough medicine:

Getting Help for Addiction

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction or a substance use disorder, get help now. Addiction is isolating, but you are not alone. Treatment can be tailored to your specific needs. Do not be afraid to take the first step toward a healthy, new, sober lifestyle. Free yourself from the chains of addiction and begin the healing process. Treatment can help to restore your health, renew your spirit, and save your life.


Daylight Recovery Services takes a holistic approach to substance abuse and co-occurring disorder treatment to address the physical, psychological, and spiritual facets of addiction and recovery. We ensure clients emerge from our facility with the proper tools and confidence in their ability to lead a healthy, enjoyable life. If you or someone you love is ready to break free of the bondage of addiction, contact one of our recovery experts today at 1-833-2DAYLIGHT.