Robotripping is a slang term when you abuse cough syrup which contains the ingredient dextromethorphan or DXM. The term itself is a corruption of the brand name Robitussin, a decongestant and cough suppressant. Of course, DXM can also be found in other medications like Vicks 44, Nyquil, Tylenol Children’s Cold and Cough, and others. Most of these medicines can be purchased over the counter without a doctor’s prescription, which makes them easy enough to abuse.
Dextromethorphan was first marketed under its commercial name Romilar back in the 1950s. However, in the 70s, it was taken off the market because of reports of abuse. Apparently, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which listed marijuana as having no medical use, overlooked DXM. A little later it was again available in the market after some modification by the pharma companies, which made the drug repulsive if taken in large doses.
The pharma companies were in a Catch-22 situation—since their products were unpleasant to taste, sales plummeted. If they made it palatable, the cough syrup is prone to abuse. Ultimately, however, profit always win in the end.
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They had to do something about their sales so they released cough syrup brands whose flavors are not that bad then looked away while some people continue to abuse it.
So how does DXM work?
While Robotripping can get you high, it works differently compared to opioids. While opioids attach to the neurotransmitters to block the pain while giving you that euphoric feeling, dextromethorphan will block the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NDMA), which is an excitatory neurotransmitter. The feeling of the person abusing it is similar to taking PCP or phencyclidine.
DXM is actually quite safe when you follow the doctor’s prescription. But in high doses, it will give the user a feeling of euphoria, hallucination, and a detachment from reality. Like PCP or ketamine, dextromethorphan is a hallucinogenic drug.
Of course, this is no secret. The abuse has been going on since the 1970s. It’s even considered as a gateway drug because it’s easily accessible even to kids and teens.
In fact, there are various street names to refer to the DXM. Among these are:
- Orange cush
- Poor man’s PCP
- Red devils
- Triple Cs
- Velvet syrup
- Vitamin D (the D is for dextromethorphan)
- Robo fizzing
Every year, there are 1 million children and young adults age 12-25 years old abuse over-the-counter cough syrups containing DXM.
Medicinal Dose Effects Compared to Abusive Effects
The therapeutic dose for DXM is usually between 15 milligrams to 30 milligrams. For kids, it all depends on their weight and age. For instance, this is not to be used for kids below 4 years old. For children who are between 30 Ibs and 47 Ibs, it should be one teaspoon for at least three times a day.
The medicinal benefits will typically last from five to six hours. When you strictly follow the doctor’s instructions regarding the correct dose, you will be on your way to being cured of your cough or cold with little or no side effects. However, those who are new to the medication may experience drowsiness, mild headache or nausea, or constipation.
There are basically four phases of abuse of the DXM:
- When the person takes in between 100 milligrams to 200 milligrams – The individual will experience a heading feeling as well as some mild euphoria at this point.
- When the person takes in 200 milligrams to 400 milligrams – The euphoria is much more pronounced and the person will experience some hallucination.
- When the person ingests between 300 milligrams to 600 milligrams – Aside from euphoria and hallucination, the user will also have difficulty with the motor functions in addition to some warped visual perception.
- When the patient takes in between 600 milligrams and 1500 milligrams – The abuser will experience an extreme detachment from reality. Unconsciousness is not uncommon at these doses.
At over 1500 milligrams, drug overdose can ensue. In 2016, more than 50 deaths were attributed to DXM in Pakistan. In the US, there are also documented cases of fatalities and thousands of people who were rushed to the emergency room due to robotripping.
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It should be noted, however, that the prevalence of abuse for the dextromethorphan has been on the downslide. For instance, from 2010 to 2015, the robotripping among the eighth, tenth, and 12th graders have dropped by 35%. The inclusion of the DXM in the Controlled Substances Act, as well as the strict prescription requirements, contributed to the decline in cases.
Signs of Robotripping
Again, your adolescent kids and teenagers are vulnerable to robotripping because they can easily buy this over the counter and cough syrup is not that expensive.
So how do you know if your children are already robotripping? Here are some of the red flags:
- They seem to have all kinds of excuses to make you buy cough syrups
- They take in large dosage more than the recommended amount
- They take in the medication even if they are not sick
- They seem to be sleeping a lot
- They act like they are drunk
- They are hallucinating (seeing things that are not there, smelling an odor that only they can sense, etc.)
- They act bizarrely
- They lose all interest in school and family activities
- Recurrent cravings
A drug overdose can be fatal. That’s why you should always be on the lookout for the following signs:
- They become unconscious
- They have difficulty controlling their motor functions
- Slurred speech and extreme lethargy
- Skin rashes and profuse sweating
- Hot flashes
- Erratic heartrate
- Impaired judgment
While the users develop tolerance to the medication, which means they will take more and more amount in order to replicate the same feelings, there’s little evidence where they develop some withdrawal symptoms to the drug even with prolonged use. That doesn’t make it less dangerous, however. It only means that they can relapse again and again because they think there are no long-term health consequences.
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Treatment for Continued Robotripping
The good news is that people who abuse the drug don’t seem to have some withdrawal effects when they stop using. That means they don’t have to undergo a medical detox in order to manage the withdrawal symptoms while physicians flush out the chemicals from their bodies.
However, treatment is not always straightforward. For adolescents and teens, especially, they need to be isolated from the previous temptations and triggers they were exposed to. An inpatient treatment program will force them to focus on their treatment and deal with the underlying issues that might have contributed to the DXM dependence.
In the inpatient program, they will have one-on-one therapy sessions with the resident counselor, group therapy sessions with their peers, positive reinforcement, and behavioral modification therapy. They will stay in an environment that is very supportive and nurturing and devoid of judgment.
In some cases, some people who abuse dextromethorphan also have a co-occurring mental condition such as anxiety, depression, compulsive behavior and the like. This is called dual diagnosis. The key to a successful treatment is the correct assessment of their condition. After which, the right treatment plan will be crafted to help the patients recover.
Want more information about how Chapters Capistrano can help? Feel free to call 949-371-4198 and one of our addiction specialists will help get the information and help you need.