Dextromethorphan is found in many over-the-counter cough medications. It acts to helps suppress the urge to cough. Despite its general safety, dextromethorphan can have some side effects, which are usually mild. While not addictive, ingestion of large amounts of dextromethorphan can lead to dangerous and potentially life-threatening toxicity. Take dextromethorphan only as directed and discuss any side effects with your doctor.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Nervous System Effects
In addition to reducing your urge to cough, dextromethorphan can affect your nervous system. Dextromethorphan can make you feel drowsy. However, dextromethorphan can make some people feel restless and excitable. Dizziness and lightheadedness may also occur.
Many nervous system symptoms may develop with a dextromethorphan overdose, including confusion, slurred speech, poor coordination and balance, hallucinations, and extreme sleepiness.
- In addition to reducing your urge to cough, dextromethorphan can affect your nervous system.
- However, dextromethorphan can make some people feel restless and excitable.
Effect on Eyes
Side Effects of MDMA
The pupils of the eyes naturally expand in response to dim light and constrict in bright light. Dextromethorphan and other drugs can also affect pupil size. In general, dextromethorphan causes pupils to stay constricted, much like narcotics. (See Reference 1) However, some people's pupils will expand after taking dextromethorphan. Dextromethorphan can also cause your eyes to move back and forth involuntarily, which is called nystagmus. (See Reference 2)
- The pupils of the eyes naturally expand in response to dim light and constrict in bright light.
- In general, dextromethorphan causes pupils to stay constricted, much like narcotics.
High doses of dextromethorphan can also cause increased sweating. People taking dextromethorphan may also develop high blood pressure. (See Reference 2)
Deriphyllin Side Effects
Because dextromethorphan can affect your nervous system, some people use it as a recreational drug. According to an article in a 2004 issue of "Pediatric Emergency Care," there are four stages of dextromethorphan intoxication 23. The first, which occurs with doses between 100 and 200 mg, causes mild stimulation of the brain and body. The second stage can be achieved with doses between 200 and 400 mg and is described as being similar to drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana at the same time. Doses of 300 to 600 mg can cause an "out-of-body" feeling, and doses higher than this can cause hallucinations and altered perceptions, similar to taking the drug ketamine. (See Reference 3)
Side Effects of MDMA
Deriphyllin Side Effects
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- American Journal of Emergency Medicine: Dextromethorphan Poisoning Reversed by Naloxone
- The American Journal of Emergency Medicine: Massive Dextromethorphan Ingestion and Abuse
- Pediatric Emergency Care: Dextromethorphan Abuse
- World Health Organization: Dextromethorphan Pre-Review Report
- Delsym 12 Hour Cough Relief Grape for Children and Adults. U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Revised June 2014.
- Green JL, Wang GS, Reynolds KM, et al. Safety profile of cough and cold medication use in pediatrics. Pediatrics. 2017;139(6). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-3070
- Martinak B, Bolis RA, Black JR, Fargason RE, Birur B. Dextromethorphan in cough syrup: the poor man's psychosis. Psychopharmacol Bull. 2017;47(4):59–63.
- Shafi H, Imran M, Usman HF, et al. Deaths due to abuse of dextromethorphan sold over-the-counter in Pakistan. Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences. 2016;6(3):280-283. doi:10.1016/j.ejfs.2015.07.002.
- Logan B.; Goldfogel, G.; Hamilton, R. et al. "Five deaths resulting from abuse of dextromethorphan sold over the internet." J Anal Toxicol. 2009; 33(2):99-103.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Guidance on Dextromethorphan Polistirex." Silver Spring, Maryland; May 2008.
Sarah Harding has written stacks of research articles dating back to 2000. She has consulted in various settings and taught courses focused on psychology. Her work has been published by ParentDish, Atkins and other clients. Harding holds a Master of Science in psychology from Capella University and is completing several certificates through the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association.