‘Robotripping’ still a common occurence

By J_Howard

The Food and Drug Administration is revisiting the issue of Dextromethorphan, or DXM, abuse. On Sept. 14, the FDA will hold a Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee meeting to determine the risks and benefits associated with the drug.

“In May 2005, [the] FDA issued a Talk Paper to notify the public about the issue of abuse of DXM,” said Crystal Rice, spokeswoman for the FDA. “At the time, we stated that the agency is working with other authorities to assess this serious issue and warn the public of potential harm, after five recent [at that time] reported deaths of teenagers.”

The meeting’s goal is to address the findings and research on the drug in the past five years.

Approved by the FDA in 1958, DXM is a commonly found ingredient in over-the-counter cold and cough medicines.

David Cohen, a licensed clinical social worker, said it is the active ingredient in more than 120 cold medications.

“It’s used as a cough suppressant, and it’s very effective in what it is for,” Cohen said.  “DXM has a lot of different effects, which is what makes it a very

complex drug.”

According to a Monitoring the Future report in 2009, 6.3 percent of students in grade 12 were DXM abusers.

“The fact that the report in 2009 shows those statistics shows that it is an issue,” said Will Taylor, public information officer and special agent for the Drug

Enforcement Administration.

Medications containing DXM are accessible in drugstores, making it easier for younger people to get a hold of the drug, Cohen said. The drug is currently not on the Controlled Substances Act, but it is on the DEA’s watch list, he said.

“This is a drug [that] has a purpose [for] which people use, and use legitimately,” Taylor said. “But obviously there is another part of the population out there that has found another use for it and is using it outside the recommended dosage units.”

Taylor said the typical dosage recommendation is 15 to 30 milligrams, two to three times a day, but abusers may take it 10 to 20 times the recommended amount.

“Someone who is using it is not concerned about the negative side effects until they get more into the high they want to get from it,” Taylor said.  “They might not even know how much of this they

are taking.”

Cohen explained taking a dosage not recommended on the label is considered drug misuse. Repeated behavior of consuming more than the recommended dose is abuse,he said.

According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, “It is not possible to abuse this dextromethorphan; it takes vast amounts that are far beyond the recommended dosage.”

In 2008, there were 7,998 emergency hospital visits due to DXM overdose, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network.

Taylor explained the drug affects the body differently, depending on how much is taken and how often.

“It can start with a mild stimulation, and as [the amount of DXM] increases with the amount that somebody takes, it can increase to a euphoria and hallucination,” Taylor said.

He added other symptoms of abuse include lethargy, sweating and hypertension.

“The issue of someone driving on this [is] they are going to have some dissociation,” Taylor said. “They are not completely with it, they are getting a high from it.”

Unlike pseudoephedrine, an ingredient found in other cold medicines, there is no age restriction or identification needed to buy this drug.

Taylor said some of the medications containing pseudoephedrine also contain DXM.

The FDA’s meeting is one step toward the prevention of DXM abuse.

“I think there is a small amount of the population that actually abuses cough medication, but I do think it is a severe problem for those that do,” Cohen said. “I think the best way to attack this particular issue is through prevention.”

Taylor said talking to someone if they are abusing the drug is one of the first steps to take.

“If nobody brings it up, it’s not going to make any difference,” he said.