Recent survey results show an increasing trend in the percentage of teens using cough medicine containing Dextromethorphan (DXM) to get high. In 2020, 3.7 percent of teens used over-the-counter cough medicine with DXM. This figure represents an increase of 2.8 percent in 2019. The same survey reports that the eighth graders’ use of cough medicine with DXM has consistently increased over the past five years, from 2.6% in 2016 to 4.6% in 2020. The question is – how long does Dextromethorphan (DXM) stay in your system?
But before we dive deeper, let’s first understand what Dextromethorphan (DXM) is, the medications that contain this drug, and other important information.
What is Dextromethorphan?
Dextromethorphan (DXM) is the active ingredient found in medicines classified as a cough suppressant. It temporarily relieves a cough caused by the common cold, flu, bronchitis, allergies, and other lung disorders. However, it does not treat the cause of the cough or speed recovery.
Sold over-the-counter, DXM comes in over 100 products such as syrup, tablets, capsules, sprays, lozenge, and even dissolvable strips placed under the tongue. Besides, anyone can purchase DXM products and powder on the internet.
DXM is a popular drug of abuse among teenagers because it is accessible and does not raise suspicion.
Slang terms for DXM include:
Dex or Drex
Poor man’s Ecstasy, Poor man’s PCP, or Poor man’s X
Sizzurp or syrup
Triple C’s or CCCs
DXM is not a scheduled drug under the Controlled Substances Act. However, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists DXM as “a drug of concern” because of high dextromethorphan dependence and abuse rates.
Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicate that the abuse of DXM typically occurs in young females under the age of 18 and males between the ages of 18 and 26 years old.
DXM may be swallowed in its original form or possibly mixed with soda for flavor, called “robo-tripping” or “skittling.” In other instances, those with substance disorder inject or use it combined with other drugs, such as alcohol and marijuana.
Is Dextromethorphan addictive?
Yes, it is. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warns that DXM misuse can lead to addiction. DXM has a chemical structure that is similar to opioid drugs. Depending on the dose, it can have effects similar to marijuana or Ecstasy.
Data reveal that the abuse of DXM typically occurs in younger individuals. Abuse may be more prevalent in young females under 18 and males between 18 and 26.
Medications containing Dextromethorphan
Among the popular formulations with DXM as an ingredient include:
- Dimetapp DM
- Robitussin DM
- Vicks Formula 44
- Robitussin CF
- Robitussin Cough and Cold
- Mucinex DM
- Store brands for cough and cold medicines
How is Dextromethorphan usually taken?
Dextromethorphan comes as a liquid-filled capsule, a chewable tablet, a dissolving strip, a solution (liquid), an extended-release (long-acting) suspension (liquid), and a lozenge. Also, it is usually taken every 4 to 12 hours as needed. The typical adult dose for cough is 15 to 30 mg taken three to four times daily. The cough suppressing effects of DXM persist for 5 to 6 hours after ingestion.
What are the signs of Dextromethorphan withdrawal?
Listed below are the common withdrawal symptoms when one stops taking the drug.
- Bone or muscle aches.
- Cold flashes
- Craving for Dextromethorphan
- A significant amount of weight loss
How long does Dextromethorphan stay in your system?
Likewise, those with low CYP2D6 metabolism may take 4 to 5 days to eliminate DXM from their system. CYP2D6 is an enzyme that is involved in the metabolism of numerous drugs
Factors that affect how long DXM stays in the body
- User’s age. As a person ages, metabolism slows down, so DXM may remain active in the bloodstream longer in older individuals.
- Gender. Males metabolize drugs faster than females.
- Body mass. A lean individual with more muscle than fat may burn off DXM more quickly than someone with a higher fat percentage.
- Genetics. Slow metabolizers have completely inactive genes that control metabolism.
- Hepatic function. Anyone with an impaired liver will likely retain longer DXBM in his body.
- Metabolic rate. A person with a higher Basal Metabolic rate (BMR) is likely to metabolize and excrete faster DXM drugs.
- Renal function. Anyone with poor renal function is likely to retain DXM metabolites slightly longer than if his kidneys were healthy.
- Dosage. Those who take DXBM more than the recommended dosage will eliminate the drug longer.
- Co-administered drugs. Medications classified as “CYP2D6 inhibitors” interfere with CYP2D6 isoenzyme function. These drugs include Bupropion, Cinacalcet, Fluoxetine, Paroxetine, Quinidine, and Ritonavir. Meanwhile, if you’ve taken a drug classified as a “CYP2D6 inducer,” this drug may have strengthened your CYP2D6 isoenzyme function. Examples include Dexamethasone, Glutethimide, and Rifampicin.
What type of drug test can detect Dextromethorphan?
Dextromethorphan is not detected on a standard 12 Panel urine drug test since it is not a controlled substance.
Nevertheless, the DEA says that DXM may show up as PCP on most standard drug tests. According to the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA), a drug test can detect PCP for up to a week. Our 12 Panel urine drug test can detect PCP.
Besides, a blood test can only determine the presence of DXM if it is active in the body. Hence, it will only show a positive result up to 24 hours after taking the drug.
Can Dextromethorphan cause a false positive?
Yes, false-positives for PCP or opioids can be triggered but only in rare DXM abuse cases.
To learn more about Dextromethorphan, check out our 12 Panel Blog.