Dextromethorphan abuse: Clinical effects and management

Frank Romanelli, Kelly M. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Objective: To describe the epidemiology, patient presentation, and clinical management associated with dextromethorphan (DM) abuse. Data sources: PubMed/Medline search using terms dextromethorphan and abuse through July 2008, bibliographies of selected publications, epidemiology tracking databases. Study selection: By the authors. Data extraction: English language-published review articles, clinical trials, and case reports that described the epidemiologic and toxicologic profile of DM were included. Data synthesis: DM is a relatively inexpensive and easily accessible over-the-counter (OTC) medication intended for use as an antitussive. Increasingly, illicit use of the drug has been reported. At clinical doses, the drug produces few adverse effects. However, when abused in large quantities (>2 mg/kg), the drug has been associated with a dissociative effect similar to those described by ketamine and phencyclidine abusers. Massive ingestions of the drug may be associated with untoward effects, including tachycardia, hypertension, and respiratory depression. Overdose symptoms may also be associated with coformulated products such as antihistamines and sympathomimetic amines. Management is primarily supportive. Naloxone has been used to manage DM toxicity but with conflicting reports of effectiveness. Conclusion: Recent reports indicate that DM is often abused by individuals seeking its dissociative effects. Clinicians should be aware of the abuse potential of DM. Pharmacists might be particularly cognizant of the risks involved with DM abuse as they control OTC access to the drug.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e20-e27
JournalJournal of the American Pharmacists Association
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009


  • Dextromethorphan
  • Drug abuse
  • Drug-drug interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (nursing)
  • Pharmacy
  • Pharmacology


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