DXM & Codeine Addiction: The Dangerous Effects of Cough Syrup Abuse

Dextromethorphan (DXM) is the main cough-suppressing ingredient found in common over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. Almost all of us have taken it when we’re under the weather, but DMX can produce mind-altering effects when it’s used in very high doses. It’s typically abused by young adults, because it’s easy to get. Additionally, prescription cough syrup medication which contains the opiate codeine is often abused for its ability to produce a strong high. As an opiate, codeine contains powerful addictive qualities that can quickly lead to dependency. Whether cough syrup is bought over-the-counter or acquired through a prescription, both the DXM and codeine versions of the medicine can be dangerous when consumed in larger quantities than professionally advised. Taken in large doses, DXM can cause hallucinations, and codeine can cause the sense of euphoria typical to opioids. Both substances cause an increase in the amount of dopamine in the user’s brain, which increases feelings of pleasure but impairs mental and physical functioning.

While most brands of cough syrup have now removed alcohol from their ingredients to lessen the substance’s potential for abuse, many cough syrup users choose to mix both alcohol and DXM or codeine for a stronger and more potent effect. Teens and young adults, the most typical users, may also add sugary sodas to the mix. This dangerous concoction has been popularized due to its prevalence in the music scene and is commonly referred to by a variety of street names, including:

  • Lean
  • Sizzurp
  • Purple drank
  • Syrup
  • Tussin

Cough Syrup Effects and Risks

When ingested in large quantities, typically taken orally in liquid form, cough syrup can produce intoxicating effects that are akin to drunkenness. Common signs of cough syrup intoxication include:

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of motor control
  • Impaired coordination
  • Nausea and vomiting

Cough syrup may also be taken in the form of a pill, liquid capsule or powdery substance.

Cough Syrup Addiction and Withdrawal

Cough syrup has addictive properties, meaning regular cough syrup abuse can eventually lead to dependence and addiction. When cough syrup dependence develops, individuals will suffer uncomfortable and even dangerous withdrawal effects when going too long without the drug. Common cough syrup withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Memory loss
  • Panic attacks
  • Drug cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Night terrors

If cough syrup addiction is left untreated, individuals run the risk of inducing an overdose. Codeine cough syrup is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, meaning it slows down heart rate and breathing rate. When consumed in too large of a dose or combined with another CNS depressant like alcohol, coma or death can occur.

Cough Syrup Addiction Treatment at Elan Recovery + Wellness

If you (or someone you love) is struggling with an addiction to cough syrup, please contact Elan Recovery + Wellness to seek treatment immediately. Through an integrated treatment approach that combines mental health and addiction rehabilitation under a unified program, Elan can target substance abuse at its core. Our compassionate and welcoming staff comes equipped with masters-level accreditations and decades of cumulative experience to provide you with professional and individualized treatment where it’s needed most.

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