Dextromethorphan is an ingredient found in many over-the-counter cold medications. This ingredient is classed as an antitussive, which means cough suppressant, and is considered effective in treating symptoms of the common cold. However, dextromethorphan in high dosages is intoxicating and dangerous. The U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration notes that this ingredient is abused in high doses by adolescents to elicit euphoria, hallucinations and dissociative sedation. In combination with use of alcohol and other drugs, dextromethorphan can have fatal results from abuse. Common over-the-counter medications with dextromethorphan for an adult dose is taken three to four times daily at 15 to 30 mg per use to treat cold symptoms.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
The brand Robitussin offers a variety of medication options for relieving cough and chest congestion 1. Cough and Chest Congestion DM Max contains 10 mg of dextromethorphan per 5 ml (1 tsp. 1) dose. For adults and children over the age of 12, 2 tsp. every four hours is recommended to relieve symptoms. Dextromethorphan is also in the Cough Long-Acting version and CoughGels as a 15 mg dose. A sugar-free version is available as well for diabetics. Children under the age of 12 are not recommended to take any of these products.
- The brand Robitussin offers a variety of medication options for relieving cough and chest congestion 1 dose.
- A sugar-free version is available as well for diabetics.
Vicks brand products contain dextromethorphan. Formula 44 Custom Care Cough and Cold PM version has 30 mg in each 15 ml tablespoon. Adults and children over the age of 12 are directed to take a dose every six hours to relieve symptoms. Other versions of this product include Custom Care Chesty Cough or Custom Care Congestion with 20 mg of dextromethorphan, and Dry Cough Suppressant with 30 mg of dextromethorphan 1. Children ages 6 to 12 are directed to take smaller doses of these products however, and kids under the age of 6 should only take the products with a physician's recommendation.
- Vicks brand products contain dextromethorphan.
- Other versions of this product include Custom Care Chesty Cough or Custom Care Congestion with 20 mg of dextromethorphan, and Dry Cough Suppressant with 30 mg of dextromethorphan 1.
Triaminic products are primarily for use in children. Day Time Cold and Cough contains 5 mg of dextromethorphan per 5 ml teaspoonful. This medication is not indicated for children under the age of 4 and dosage should not exceed recommendation. Dextromethorphan is also in the Cough and Sore Throat version as well as the Thin Strips Long Acting Cough version at 5.5 mg per dose. Each type of medication is indicated for use every six to eight hours for symptom relief.
- Triaminic products are primarily for use in children.
- Each type of medication is indicated for use every six to eight hours for symptom relief.
Use of Zicam in Children
Coricidin for people with high blood pressure offers a cough suppressant called Cough and Cold HBP, with dextromethorphan in 30 mg tablets. Additional versions of this brand include Chest Congestion and Cough with 10 mg of dextromethorphan per tablet, Day and Night Multi-Symptom Cold with 10 mg for the day dose and 15 mg for the nighttime dose as well as a Maximum Strength Flu version 1.
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- National Center for Biotechnology Information. Dextromethorphan.
- Smith SM, Schroeder K, Fahey T. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications for acute cough in children and adults in community settings. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(11):CD001831. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001831.pub5
- Spangler DC, Loyd CM, Skor EE. Dextromethorphan: A case study on addressing abuse of a safe and effective drug. Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy. 2016;11(1):22. doi:0.1186/s13011-016-0067-0
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. When to give kids medicine for coughs and colds. Updated November 27, 2018.
- MedlinePlus. Dextromethorphan. Updated February 15, 2018.
- Dicpinigaitis PV, Dhar S, Johnson A, Gayle Y, Brew J, Caparros-Wanderley W. Inhibition of cough reflex sensitivity by diphenhydramine during acute viral respiratory tract infection. Int J Clin Pharm. 2015;37(3):471–474. doi:10.1007/s11096-015-0081-8
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. Diphenhydramine.
- MedlinePlus. Diphenhydramine. Updated August 15, 2018.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA drug safety communication: FDA requires labeling changes for prescription opioid cough and cold medicines to limit their use to adults 18 years and older. Updated January 22, 2018.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Hycodan (hydrocodone bitartarate and homotropine methylbromide). Updated January 2017.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Issues Alert on Tussionex, a Long-Acting Prescription Cough Medicine Containing Hydrocodone. FDA News Press Release 11 Mar 08.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Questions and Answers About FDA’s Enforcement Action Regarding Unapproved Hydrocodone Drug Products.
Aubri John has been a contributing researcher and writer to online physical and mental health oriented journals since 2005. John publishes online health and fitness articles that coincide with her licensed clinical skills in addictions, psychology and medical care. She has a master's degree in clinical social work and a Ph.D. in health psychology.