Dextromethorphan (DXM) is an antihistamine found in cough medicines and other combination cold preparations that has become a popular drug of abuse for adolescents and young adults. The abuse of cough syrups containing DXM can lead to an altered state of consciousness and hallucinations. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America estimates that one in 11 teens have abused cough medicine or other OTC products to get high. It is referred to in many slang terms including Black Beauties, Brownies, Dexies, Dextro, Drix, Gel, Groove, Poor Man’s Ecstasy, Red Devils and Robo.
To achieve the desired "high," abusers ingest or snort pure DXM powder. The quantity abused can vary from 250 to 1,500 mg per episode. The abuser attempts to titrate the amount to reach a "plateau." At the first plateau, the user experiences slurred speech and impaired short-term memory. At higher doses, a dissociative effect begins that is compared to PCP or anesthetic ketamine and leads to hallucinations.
To avoid overdoses, people abusing DXM often mix it with other drugs or alcohol. This increases the risk of a life-threatening condition called chemical psychosis, which can cause brain damage, seizures or death. Cough syrups containing DXM also contain other ingredients that can be dangerous in large amounts, such as acetaminophen and decongestants.