Parents are becoming aware that over-the-counter medications found in the cabinet are being abused by teenagers. For some teens getting high is easier than ever. Something as simple as opening the door to the medicine cabinet at home gives them easy access to Dextromethorphan, also know as DXM or Robo.

Cough medicine or Dextromethorphan (DXM) obviously has therapeutic benefits but it is also subject to illicit uses. When abused, it generates visual and auditory hallucinations and altered time perceptions. The term robotripping for some teenagers, is a simple way to experience a high. There are several names for DXM: Skittles, Triple C’s, DXM, CCC, Robo, and poor man’s PCP. It is also more commonly referred to as Skittling, likely because of the pills resemblance to the candy Skittles.

Many parents, especially ones with teenagers have reason to be very concerned. Having a dangerous mind altering drug in your house that may seem as harmless can obviously be scary for many parents. DXM in high doses in high doses can lead to:

  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • A build-up of acid in body fluids
  • Agitation
  • Hyperexcitability
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Sweating
  • Ataxia (i.e., losing control of body movements)
  • Hypertension
  • Vomiting
  • Impaired motor function
  • Confusion
  • Dissociative episodes
  • Audio and visual hallucinations
  • Nausea
  • Numbness
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Headaches
  • Sleepiness
  • Lethargy
  • Slurred speech
  • Nystagmus
  • Violent behavior

The amount of dextromethorphan ingested causes different stages of intoxication known as DXM plateaus:. The more DMX you take, the more severe your symptoms become. Robotripping comprises four stages called plateaus. Higher plateaus occur at certain points as the dose of dextromethorphan increases.

Plateau 1 (1.5–2.5 mg/kg)

  • Total intake 100–200 mg (4–6 capsules or 35–60 mL of syrup)
  • Restlessness, euphoria

Plateau 2 (2.5–7.5 mg/kg)

  • Total dose 200–500 mg (7–18 capsules or 60–185 mL of syrup)
  • Exaggerated auditory and visual sensations, closed-eye hallucinations, imbalance

Plateau 3 (7.5–15 mg/kg)

  • Total dose 500–1000 mg (18–33 capsules or 185–375 mL of syrup)
  • Visual and auditory disturbances, altered consciousness, delayed reaction times, mania, panic, partial dissociation

Plateau 4 (> 15 mg/kg)

  • Total dose > 1000 mg (> 33 capsules or > 375 mL of syrup)
  • Hallucinations, delusions, ataxia, complete dissociation

*Assuming a 75-kg person, 30-mg capsules and 3 mg per millilitre of syrup.

The results of the 2020 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey shows 3.7 percent of teens reported using over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to get high, an increase from 2.8 percent in 2019. While overall rates remain low, NIDA’s survey release notes that use among eighth graders, “has gradually increased over the past five years, from 1.6% in 2015 to 4.6% in 2020, its highest rate since 2006.”

The most commonly abused products related for robotripping are Robitussin and Coricidin.

What Happens During Robotripping?

“Quite often families notice a change in behavior but can’t pinpoint the cause.”

“Many kids today are looking for something euphoric and Skittles or Triple C’s are readily available in the medicine cabinet or is easily stolen from the pharmacy or grocery store”

DXM can become addictive, and overdoses and sometimes death can occur.

What should parents look for?

  • Mood swings, irritability, and anger
  • Falling asleep and being unresponsive
  • Lack of attention to personal appearance or grooming
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Slurring or acting drunk
  • Missing money, valuables, pills
  • Drops in performance at work, school, home
  • Inability to enjoy former hobbies

So How Are Teens Getting Dextromethorphan?

Unfortunately, obtaining cough suppressant substances can be easy.

Drug Enforcement Administration published a fact sheet on Dextromethorphan

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) published a dextromethorphan fact sheet in 2019 showing DXM abuse has traditionally been with the OTC liquid cough preparations. More recently, abuse of tablet and gel capsule preparations has increased. DXM powder sold over the Internet is also a source of DXM for abuse. DXM is also distributed in illicitly manufactured tablets, containing only DXM or mixed with other illicit drugs such as ecstasy or methamphetamine.

Most parents are concerned about pornography and online pedophiles. What they don’t realise is the preponderance of pro-drug use information on the internet,” warned Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of the Partnership to End Addiction, to ABC News back in 2010. “It’s not on their radar screen, because no one did it when they were growing up.”

The DEA reported that DXM abuse is fueled not only by its OTC availability but also by extensive “how to” abuse information on various websites. A simple online search for “robotripping” shows social media sites with discussions on buying dextromethorphan, mixing it with other substances for added effects, dosing aimed at achieving a DXM high, and much more.

In addition, social media, hip-hop music, reddit, and many other avenues of influence readily influence young people to experiment with substances they know very little about, adding fuel to an already dangerous situation.

How To You Help a Teen Who’s Robotripping?

There are a variety of substance abuse treatment option. You can find a therapist and recovery program that fits your needs. There are a variety of resources to assist parents on the web as well consultants that help guide families through the process. Education is good place to start, being able to recognize symptoms, and willing to have a discussion with your teen about robotripping.

“willing to have a tough conversation, be involved in their lives, and stay curious with who they interact with, both friends and on social media.” says Roy Jett Addiction Specialist at Resolution Ranch Academy.

Resolution Ranch Academy is a Therapeutic Boarding school that works with teens 13-17 that may be struggling with addiction issues. We offer a nurturing environment where teens can find unconditional support, and guidance. Please contact us here.