The abuse liability of dextromethorphan among adolescents: A review

William V. Bobo, Shannon C. Miller, Bryant D. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Dextromethorphan (DM) is a popular over-the-counter antitussive medication. Although adverse effects from appropriate use are rare, a specific toxidrome with significant psychomimetic effects occurs with ingestions in excess of those recommended. Both DM and its active metabolite, dextrorphan (DOR), share pharmacologic and neuro-behavioral properties similar to opiates and phencyclidine (PCP). As such, cases of recreational DM abuse and, rarely, dependence, have been reported, and some data suggest that such abuse is on the rise. DM may be considered by substance abusers, especially adolescents, to be a dissociative agent devoid of financial concerns, legal limitations, negative stigma, problems with access or adverse health consequences. However, DM's popularity among adolescent substance abusers is generally not matched by adequate health care provider awareness, pharmacological understanding or epidemiological characterization. In this review, we summarize the current understanding of DM's addiction medicine-based neuropharmacology and epidemiology, describe social characteristics more unique to DM as an agent of abuse, review treatment and prevention issues, and identify areas in need of further research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-75
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2005


  • Cough medicine
  • Dextromethorphan
  • Dextromethorphan abuse
  • Dextromethorphan dependence
  • Non-prescription medication
  • Substance abuse
  • Substance related disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • General Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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