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What Is Robotripping? What Are Its Effects on the Body?

Dextromethorphan, which often goes by the names DXM or DM, is an ingredient found in many over-the-counter medications that are designed to treat symptoms of the common cold, allergies, or influenza. DXM is a cough suppressant and decongestant. It is found in many common over-the-counter medications, including Robitussin, NyQuil, Vicks 44 cough medicine, etc.

Dextromethorphan was developed in the 1950s and approved as an over-the-counter cough suppressant under the brand name Romilar, but it was removed from the market in the 1970s due to issues with individuals abusing it. The substance was not included in the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, and it was reintroduced to the general public in a number of medications, but in a version that made it quite unpleasant to take in large doses. This was an attempt to reduce the potential abuse for the drug. Unfortunately, its unpleasant taste made it very unpopular, and manufacturers began to create versions that did not taste as bad, reopening the door for abuse.

Dextromethorphan is a synthetic drug that is produced from a morphine derivative, but it does not have the same action as opiate drugs. The main action of dextromethorphan is to inhibit the action of the excitatory neurotransmitter N-methyl-d-aspartate (NDMA), and in high doses, its effects are similar to drugs like ketamine and phencyclidine (PCP). When taken as directed in therapeutic doses, the drug is considered to be safe; however, in high doses, the drug acts as a dissociative hallucinogenic drug, producing feelings of euphoria, visual hallucinations, other types of hallucinations, and extreme detachment from reality. There are a number of street names associated with dextromethorphan, including dex, skittles, robo, groove, red devil, tussin, syrup, triple C, and vitamin D.

Medicinal Dose Effects Compared to Abusive Effects

The medicinal dose of dextromethorphan is typically between 15 mg and 30 mg, which can be taken 3-4 times a day. Individuals typically take the medication orally, and its medicinal effects can last 5-6 hours at this dosage. When it is taken within its recommended dosages, there are very few side effects, but some individuals may experience issues with constipation, drowsiness, mild headaches, and mild nausea.

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, there are four levels of abuse of dextromethorphan, and there are different effects at each of these levels.

  • The lowest level of abuse is described as being between 100 mg and 200 mg. At this level of abuse, the effect is a sensation of mild stimulation.
  • The next level of abuse occurs between 200 mg and 400 mg. Individuals taking the drug at this level will experience euphoria and visual hallucinations.
  • The third level of abuse occurs between 300 mg and 600 mg. Individuals abusing the drug at this level will experience all the other effects, including additional distorted visual perceptions and issues with motor coordination.
  • The highest level is above 600 mg (600-1500 mg). At this level, individuals will experience the above effects, including the added effect of dissociative sedation, which is an experience of extreme sedation and detachment from the body or reality.
  • Very high doses of DMX can result in fatalities, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

Generally, people who are robotripping are abuse the drug at high levels.

Signs of Robotripping

According to information provided by the American Psychiatric Association and the Drug Enforcement Administration, the groups that are at the greatest risk for robotripping are adolescents and young adults.

There are number of signs that suggest that an individual may be robotripping, such as:

  • Purchasing large amounts of the drug online
  • Using the drug in significantly higher amounts or significantly more often than recommended
  • Using the drug in the absence of the symptoms of a cold, allergies, or influenza
  • Spending significant amounts of time using the drug or recovering from use of the drug
  • Continued use despite negative effects in various aspects of life
  • Using DXM to deal with normal stresses of life
  • Recurrent cravings to use DXM

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Even though the drug can be purchased over the counter in cough formulations and cold medicines, individuals who take extremely high amounts of the drug are at risk for overdose. Signs that an individual may have suffered an overdose of DXM include the following:

  • Dramatically impaired issues with motor coordination that include a staggering gate, issues with balance, and extreme difficulty performing routine tasks
  • Markedly slurred speech, lethargy, and extreme sedation
  • Red blotches or rashes on the skin, extreme sweating, hot flashes, and hyperactive-type behaviors
  • Irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and visual difficulties
  • Extreme anxiety, feelings of detachment from one’s body, hallucinations, paranoid behavior, and extremely impaired judgment

There does appear to be the potential to develop tolerance when one repeatedly uses dextromethorphan; however, there does not appear to be the development of withdrawal symptoms or physical dependence even in chronic users.

There is evidence that using naloxone, a drug often used to reverse the symptoms of opiate drug overdose, such as heroin overdose, may also be useful in addressing issues associated with overdose of dextromethorphan.

Treatment for Continued Robotripping

Individuals who continually robotrip will most likely not require a formal withdrawal management program for the development of physical dependence; however, because most of these individuals are younger, they may initially respond better to residential treatment in order to isolate them from others who influence them negatively during the early stages of recovery.

Individuals who have developed significant abuse issues with dextromethorphan will experience a number of emotional issues and cravings in the initial phases of the recovery, and inpatient care can also address these issues. Because it is extremely important for younger individuals to develop close bonds with peers in recovery, the use of group therapy, social support groups, and a long-term treatment approach that is positive and nurturing are essential.

Many individuals who abuse dextromethorphan may also have co-occurring psychological disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorders, or other mental health issues, and they are at a high probability to have habitually abused multiple substances at the same time, such as alcohol, cannabis, and other drugs. It is extremely important that in the initial phases of treatment, these individuals receive thorough assessments to identify any co-occurring disorders. Any co-occurring disorders that are identified should be treated concurrently with the individual’s dextromethorphan abuse. If comorbid psychological disorders or medical conditions are not addressed with the abuse of dextromethorphan, the overall treatment outcome has a far lower chance of success.

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