When taken as directed, DXM is a safe cold medicine. When abused at higher doses, DXM can be lethal.
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WHAT IS IT?
DXM (dextromethorphan) is a cough-suppressing ingredient in many OTC (over-the-counter) cold and cough medications. It's safe if you take it for a cold and as directed, but taking it at doses higher than the recommended amount can be lethal.
A single high dose of DXM can completely distort your vision, and make you dizzy, agitated and paranoid. Hallucinations are another side effect of DXM intoxication. And it can also affect your body. Taking large doses of DXM can make you vomit, lose your coordination and impair your judgment. When abused at high enough doses, DXM can suppress the central nervous system, and result in death.
People who abuse DXM can develop a psychological dependence on the drug, increasing risks over the long-term. DXM can cause serious damage when abused. And many of the over-the-counter medications that contain DXM, also include other ingredients such as antihistamines, analgesics or decongestants that may increase the harmful effects, including potentially fatal liver injury. In combination with alcohol or other drugs, DXM can also lead to overdose and death.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Taken as directed to treat a cold or cough, DXM is a safe drug. Abused at high doses, it can impair your senses and it can be deadly. In 2003, a 14-year-old boy in Colorado who abused DXM died when two cars hit him as he tried to cross a highway. Investigators believe that taking DXM affected the boy's depth perception and caused him to misjudge the distance and speed of the oncoming vehicles.