Naughty Cough Syrup Returns

So for a while there local newscasts were soberly worried kids drinking cough medicine that only contained dextromethorpan (DXM). It seems that children of all ages were guzzling bottles of it in order to go on a cheap hallucinatory journey.

In response, the drug companies were pulling DXM-only formulas off the shelves and pushing multi-symptom formulas. Multi-symptom meant multi-ingredients, like guaifenesin. If you intentionally overdose on DXM + guaifenesin, the first stop on your magical mystery tour will include draining the high-volume draining of the contents of your stomach and bowels, through your throat and rear, respectively. But just yesterday I’m walking down the Rite Aide aisle in Brooklyn to get cold supplies for my girlfriend and there it is, a whole bunch of DXM-only cough medicine. What gives? Are we just not doing that anymore? Did the drug companies just decide the war on robotripping is over? Or did we get it wrong and DXM-only medicine never went off the market? Inquiring minds want to know.

(Photo: Editor B)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Major-General says:

    I think MC Chris covered this, both in his song “The ‘Tussin” and at one concert in Oklahoma City. Essentially, don’t use it, get beer. And if you can’t get beer, you’re not trying hard enough.

    Of course, someone should have given him some of the Oklahoma Barley Pop for analysis.

  2. elvisaintdead says:

    Ahhh, Robitussin DM (Double Mess)
    Man, that was a mmmeeeeaaaaannnnn buzz.

    The wrestling coach at my HS used to ‘encourage’ his team to drink it so they couldn’t get caught drinking.

    Good times. Good times.

  3. Alvis says:

    DexAlone was never discontinued, and that makes a point to advertise that it’s only DXM. Don’t know where you got the idea that DXM-only products ever went away.

  4. Buran says:

    gee, you’d think that pushing medicine that DOESN’T make you sick would be a good idea. Well, sicker than you already are.

  5. Techguy1138 says:

    If stupid kids want to get high on cough syrup, just let them. Don’t make it difficult for me to get cough syrup I need because someone else is dumb.

    If start restricting every object you can get high off of or do stupid things with we will be left with nothing useful.

  6. CharlieFogg says:

    Also, you it’s probably not good to take medicines you don’t need that are bundled with the DXM just so somebody won’t use it for a good time.

    BTW, few medicines taste worse than guaifenesin. My kids won’t take the yellow Triaminic, which is only guaifenesin. Even mixed with a few other medicines, it ruins the whole taste.

  7. disavow says:

    @Techguy1138: Isn’t robotrippin’ supposed to be pretty bad, like addictive and burns holes in your brain and stuff? Otherwise I wouldn’t care.

  8. MonkeySwitch says:

    drinking an entire bottle of cough syrup is stupid. You can eat a box of gel caps and get the same effect. Or so I hear.

  9. Shadowfire says:

    We have a kid coming into our store sniffing the CO2 out of whipped cream canisters. Are we going to ban them too?

  10. Alvis says:

    @disavow: Olney’s lesions have only been shown to form in rat brains, never primates, and only when given the much stronger (around 1000x) NMDA antagonist dizocilpine.

  11. Alvis says:

    @Shadowfire: That’s N2O, not CO2. He’s trying to get high, not kill himself.

  12. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @MonkeySwitch: Yeah, I heard that too. From a friend.

  13. veronykah says:

    @disavow: I can’t imagine HOW it would be addictive. I admit, I drank a bottle of robitussin once in junior high with a bunch of friends. You definitely get WAAAAY f’ed up, like on par with other hallucinigens. However, there is the whole part where you actually have to DRINK the cough medicine. I didn’t like the stuff before this experience, but after I can’t even SMELL Robitussin without wanting to vomit.
    Oh, and did I forget to mention that nearly the entire “trip” I was pretty nauseated? Yeah, that alone was enough of a deterrent.
    IF you are that motivated to trip out and can’t find the real stuff…be my guest. Can’t imagine a lot of kids do this more than once…none I know did.

  14. lostalaska says:

    From some quick reading it looks like the biggest detriment is how much Robotripping jacks your kidneys, followed closely with damage to certain parts of the brain if you take too high of a dose (which apparently you have to do if you want to “trip”) sweet I’m officially getting too old now that I used the drug reference trip in quotes.

  15. mitten says:

    Maybe the greedy pharmaceutical co’s got worried about this report that says honey is as or more effective than OTC cough medicine. (Okay, okay, the study was funded by some Board of Honey, but whatever.)

  16. Alvis says:

    @lostalaska: See above – Olney’s lesions.

  17. Mr. Gunn says:

    All the kids know you can order bulk DXM for way cheaper than you can buy it in the store, anyways.

  18. humphrmi says:

    My kids just developed a cough, so ironically I just today had a conversation with my pediatrician about this DXM “recall” or whatever you’ll call it. He gave me some interesting statistics.

    Deaths related to taking DXM-only cough syrup over the last fifty years: 50.

    Percentage of those deaths due to overdose: 100%

    So one child per year on average has fatally OD’d on cough syrup over the last fifty years. That’s more than have died by ingesting unsafely stored home cleaning supplies and other home chemicals.

    So here’s my doctor’s professional advice: Don’t sweat which cough syrup you buy, just put it out of their reach and read & follow the dosage instructions carefully.

  19. bombaxstar says:

    I struggle to drink a little teaspoon of Robitussin, I don’t see how someone could drink an entire bottle…

  20. Techguy1138 says:

    Huffing gas or spray paint also gets you high and messes up body.

    I do not care if some people so stupid things that messes them up. Kids have been doing cough syrup since I was a kid.

    In high school I saw a class mate get drunk through the day by openly drinking a liter of scope. I’m sure that didn’t do him any wonders either. I don’t want mouth wash restricted.

    If it becomes a REAL epidemic then sure I’m all for a restriction. A few hundred kids being stupid is fine 10’s of thousands is not.

  21. h4plo says:

    When some friends and I (early 20’s) used to be into robotripping, we’d scour the local Rite Aid/Walgreen’s/etc. stores until we found a brand that excluded the dreaded g-chemical from it’s ingredient list. Sometimes it took longer than others, but (at least then) if you were determined enough, you could find it.

    The biggest deterrent to doing drugs like DXM is the drug itself. It’s weird; although it’s been referred to repeatedly as a hallucinogen, it technically is not. It’s a dissociative, and one very similar to ketamine. It’s not like some substances – like marijuana and alcohol – where the “high” is essentially the same thing regardless of how much of the chemical is ingested. Even though you stumble more and get a lot hungrier, it’s essentially the same effect. With DXM, the effects differ dramatically at higher doses. Low doses tend to be similar to a combination of having a few beers and smoking a joint at the same time, where substantially higher ones are something akin to being placed in a sensory deprivation chamber.

    Although it provided for some interesting insights during my first years of college, the overwhelming sense of ego-destruction that comes from taking too much proved to far outweigh any possible benefits.

    If, for whatever reason, you’re interested in more information, has some excellent essays/examinations of it.

    While we’re on the topic of “Stuff you can buy legally that will fuck you up really badly”: crushing and eating a raw nutmeg – the sort you can get at health food stores – will make you trip for several days at a time. I make mention of it because I think it’s another drug that is it’s own deterrent.

  22. kingoftheroad40 says:

    I think if you say no you can’t have that i remember when i was a kid/teen it made me want it more
    People will get high or fed up no matter what the government does look at the war on drugs prohibition does not work

  23. BigNutty says:

    Let the stupid continue to be stupid.

  24. matsayz says:

    just go find some mushrooms, prolly pay just alittle more and its gonna be a better trip than the robo… and sheet not nearly as hard to down. as usual make sure to have a sober friend watch over you.

  25. Shaggy says:

    The first rule of Robitussin Club is not to talk about Robitussin Club.



  26. firefoxx66 says:

    “So for a while there local newscasts were soberly worried kids drinking cough medicine that only contained dextromethorpan (DXM).”
    “he first stop on your magical mystery tour will include draining the high-volume draining of the contents of your stomach and bowel”

    Please proofread your articles before you post them. I’m not trying to be high-and-mighty, or rude, but it really reflects badly on the content when the presentation is shoddy. It might seem bitchy, and I’m sorry, but I had to say something.

  27. ginnylavender says:

    Robitussin DM, or “Ruby Tulsa” in the seventies. Somewhere I have the lyrics to that song.

  28. iheartconsumerist says:

    Regardless of what crap they put in cough syrup its pretty easy to do a polar nonpolar extraction to just get the DXM out… Putting other stuff in the syrup is sort of like a version of cough syrup DRM… Anyone with half a brain can get around it

  29. CompletionBackwards says:

    The immature will always try different methods available to them to escape reality. Only those of us who are mature and responsible realize that taxable,legal,alcohol is responsible;xcept for doctor prescribed, FDA tested, insurance-subsidized mood altering “safe” drugs, we’ll never be truly cured or happy. Am I right people?!!

  30. G-Dog says:

    I robo-ed once in college. We had ran out of GHB and were desperate for a buzz. I spent the next six hours sitting on my bed with my head in my hands repeating “God, this was stupid.” for five hours.

    It was like spinning in place while getting punched in the stomach.

  31. floydianslip6 says:

    @completionbackwards: I like the way you think ;-)

  32. Monkey4Sale says:

    Here in Oregon you have to have a prescreption for Claritin D. Anything with DXM in it is illegal to buy OTC. Supposedly it has hindered meth production, yet it does nothing but piss those of us with colds off, and still the majority comes from over the borders.

  33. The biggest deterrent to doing drugs like DXM is the drug itself.

    Damn straight.

    I salute the bold shamanic voyagers who use significant doses of DXM more than once.

    For everybody else, even if drugs ‘r’ as bad mm’kay as Nancy Reagan says, DXM is about as realistic an abuse choice as sewage vapours.

  34. Alvis says:

    @Monkey4Sale: No fear; you can still grow your own Ephedra Sinica and make a tea out of it – the natural source of both ephedrine and pseudoephidrine, so it should cure your stuffy nose.

  35. kc-guy says:

    Wiki says you can get strong trip out of Benadrly/Unisom/the PM in Advil PM….only thing is the hallucinations are almost universally bad…while we’re banning things…skydiving, motorcycles, bungee jumping and sex…those endorphin things just have to stop!

  36. Robotripping is so last year. The cool kids are all using morning glory seeds for their hallucinatory highs now!

  37. polyeaster says:

    I know this will sound callous, but I don’t really care if kids want to do a little robotripping. It’s stupid and dangerous, but kids who want to get high are going to find a way to get high…why should I suffer because people want to prevent some stupid 12 year olds from getting high? The end result is that the stupid 12 year old STILL gets high (using some other method), and I can’t function in my day-to-day.

  38. @Eyebrows McGee: I was under the impression that the cool kids were smoking or licking toads or something like that.

  39. whirlybird says:

    You should try DelSym. It’s 100% pure DXM, even in the kid’s formulation. Now with a great orange taste!

  40. CliveDobbs says:


    “Although it provided for some interesting insights during my first years of college, the overwhelming sense of ego-destruction that comes from taking too much proved to far outweigh any possible benefits.”

    Yes, this. My knuckleheaded friends and I never took anything BUT too much, so I’ve always described the experience to anyone who asked as “a real horror-show trip.” And not just because the first time I did it I ended up at the opening-night midnight screening of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” surrounded by midwestern vampire wannabes. *shudders*

    Laphroaig is my tipple now, praise Jesus.

  41. jeff303 says:

    @completionbackwards: All legal issues aside I’m not convinced alcohol really is the most responsible alteration substance one can ingest.

  42. Monkey4Sale says:

    @Alvis: Or just get a RX, I have a black thumb for horticulture.

  43. aka Cat says:

    I just want to know why my local Kroger is carding everyone who buys SpaghettiOs.

  44. r4__ says:

    @CatMoran: Man, in my day the kids just threw eggs. Whole cans? That’s an expensive mischief.

  45. nardo218 says:

    Ugh, then or now, no ammount of desperation could drive me to cough syrup for a high. Vile, horrid stuff. I’d sooner lick a toad.

  46. Smackdown says:

    Having taken the DXM gelcap express many, many, many times in my young adult life, I can say that 1) yes, you do trip, and if you’re not getting visuals, you haven’t taken enough, and 2) it is the most fucked-up trip in the universe. It has none of the organic grooviness of mushrooms, and none of the clean tight feeling of acid. It’s like, if you were tripping and totally hammered off your ass and running your 78 ass at 45rpm.

    It’s insane.

    Stay in school.

  47. I never heard of robotripping until when, two days ago, some annoying kid who was clearly under the influence of something was spamming the mic in a game of Team Fortress 2. Apparently it’s either still readily available or readily available again.

  48. alienorgy69 says:

    @RamV10: The cool kids in my high school days didn’t have to depend on OTC stuff. We always knew were to get something that wouldn’t cause as much abdominal distress or cause as much brain damage (i.e. something better than DXM.) Kids these days should try and get some beer. It was easy for me. These kids are worse than my generation ten-fold.