This text covers the recreational and medical uses of dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant in common use in over-the-counter (non-prescription) cough medicines. This is version 4.0-Y (hypertext).
This text discusses some rather controversial topics. Currently, there are laws in most places of the world that make it illegal to use certain drugs for recreational purposes. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the medical nature of the drugs in question has nothing to do with their legal status (otherwise, alcohol would be illegal and we'd all be smoking dope). In particular, a lot of people are making a lot of money from the illegal drug trade. The distributors, manufacturers, and sellers of illegal drugs are among them, of course. So are the law enforcement agencies and politicians, and the manufacturers and distributors of legal drugs like nicotine and alcohol. In the past few years, many scientists, physicians, journalists, and others have suggested legalization as a way to reduce the harm associated with the drug trade.
It is not my desire to address this topic in depth here. What is important is that, in response to these suggestions, the proponents of the War on Drugs (and its equivalents elsewhere) have become increasingly aggressive. One of their goals is to prevent the dissemination of information about recreational drugs (unless it's their own propaganda). As such, anyone even discussing drug use is walking on thin ice, and once you go about telling people how to do it, the ice becomes a lot thinner.
I have no intention of being thrown into prison so that they are forced to release rapists, murderers, and child molesters in order to make room for me. I'm not planning to become a martyr any time soon; I'd much prefer for the Drug Peace to come without violence (legal or physical). However, I feel it is important to provide true information about drugs. J. S. Mill argued very eloquently that if an idea is true, then it can only become stronger when it is confronted with falsehood; to prevent debate in the hope of protecting the "truth" only leads to lies. I agree entirely, and quite frankly I think anyone even thinking of getting into politics should be familiar with (and hopefully agree with) Mill and his arguments. Honest and open discussion of drugs can only lead to better policy and less harm.
In any case, like so many others, I am walking on somewhat thin ice here, and must take certain steps to protect myself. Thus the following rather verbose disclaimer, which may or may not be worth anything in an actual court of law:
It is not my intention to influence anyone to commit an illegal act. I explicitly instruct all readers not to violate any international, national, state, regional, city, or other applicable laws governing any of the information presented in any document authored by me or made available by me through electronic or other publishing methods, including this document. Specifically, I hereby advise everyone not to ingest, inject, smoke, snort, shove up your ass, or otherwise administer any legal or illegal drug (except for legal drugs under order of a physician), or to engage in the manufacture, distribution, synthesis, analysis, or other processing of any legal or illegal drug, regardless of anything you may see in the aforementioned documents. I advise everyone not to follow any procedures listed. All information is presented for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY!
None of the information in this document is guaranteed to be accurate or valid in any way. Anyone attempting any such action or process takes full responsibility for any outcome resulting from such, and neither I, nor my access provider, nor any other subset of the Usenet/Internet or world community (except for the person or persons attempting the action) may be held responsible.
By proceeding past this Disclaimer, you agree to assume all responsibility for any actions, legal or not, that you may take. If any part of this disclaimer is found to be invalid, then all rights to access and distribute this information are revoked.
Any questions or comments may be addressed to me:
US Mail:William White
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Please don't call me up, telling me I'm going to Hell or somesuch nonsense. I don't believe in it and I don't have the time or inclination to listen to that sort of drivel. Thus far I've gotten very few negative responses, and I thank everyone who has taken the time to email me, call me, or otherwise contact me.
Testimonials and personal data are presented anonymously. I do not maintain copies of the sender's name, address, or personal information, either online or offline, and thus I cannot give information as to their identities. Any personal information, testimonials, or reports as to DXM's effects that were or are sent to me will be considered anecdotal and not specifically referring to the sender. I encourage anyone with applicable data to send it to me anonymously. Any data sent PGP encoded will be decoded on my private system (MS-DOS) which is offline. After decoding, all information regarding the sender's identity is overwritten (200 pass random pattern). Thus I cannot link testimonials or information to senders after this operation. Note that my system is NOT TEMPEST SECURE (not that I've noticed any strange vans near my house).
There is the philosophy among some in the USA (and probably the rest of the world) that the best way to prevent people from making mistakes is to withhold information from them. For example, this is particularly noticeable in the case of sex education, where some assert that teaching children about sex is equivalent to giving them permission to copulate, and that, since no sex is perfectly safe, and since teenagers especially have a tendency to take risks (e.g., no birth control), we ought not to teach sex education in the schools. One might just as easily say that teaching children about cars is equivalent to giving them permission to drive, and that, since no driving is perfectly safe, and since teenagers especially have a tendency to take risks (e.g., racing down Main St.), we ought not to teach driving education in schools.
This misguided philosophy of "ignorance is strength" is just as often applied to information pertaining to drug use. In the case of drug use, however, good information is immediately useful towards preventing drug-related injuries. In the case of DXM, there are several possible mistakes people can make, and the chance for making a mistake is compounded by the fact that people hear "you can get high off cough syrup" as advertisement for DXM use. At best they are unprepared for the trip; at worst, they get hold of an acetaminophen-containing preparation and end up in the hospital or dead.
Make no mistake; this information will probably encourage some to try, and continue to use, DXM. That is not my intention. A few of these people may end up addicted, or at least habituated to the point of trouble. That is certainly not my intention. My intention is to make sure that everyone out there knows what the risks and effects of DXM use are, so that s/he can make intelligent choices for herself or himself. An intelligent choice is not always right, but it is fair, and you always learn from it.
This text sprung out of the Usenet newsgroups alt.drugsand alt.psychoactives, where about 1 or 2 questions a week about DXM would appear. After responding weekly, or in some cases daily, I decided to put together all the questions (and a few questions I thought would follow) and write a full explanation of DXM. Some of the material is fairly technical, but I thought it better to give too much information than not enough. It is distributed once a month (more or less) on the Usenet newsgroups rec.drugs.psychedelicand alt.drugs (until the latter disappears); please distribute it beyond Internet and Usenet (subject to the restrictions above).
It is my sincere hope that this type of information may help the Internet fulfill its potential as an information source. Those of us who have the time and ability to provide good information should feel obligated to do so; if we set a standard of high signal and low noise, perhaps others will follow.
Right now, DXM is legal for over-the-counter use in most places. This seems to be for two reasons primarily. First, there is no substitute for DXM that does not also have abuse potential. Nor is there likely to ever be one; everywhere the cough reflex can be blocked involves some type of receptor associated with recreational drug effects. Second, pharmaceutical companies don't want to lose a major chunk of their income. DXM works as a cough suppressant, and it works well. Besides, nobody wants to have to go to the doctor to get a prescription every time they get a cold.
However, it is possible that DXM-only preparations might disappear from the market. This would be unfortunate, both for recreational users and for the general public; the most likely additive - guaifenesin - makes some people vomit even at low doses. Another possibility would be the addition of something which would be harmless at regular doses but induce nausea (or other unpleasant effects) at recreational doses.
The best answer is probably prevention, which unfortunately involves two conflicting goals. On the one hand, it is essential that DXM related deaths do not occur - this was my primary motivation in making this FAQ in the first place. Several DXM cough medicines can be dangerous if consumed recreationally, due to the presence of other ingredients. There is also the problem of drug interactions, e.g., DXM + SeldaneTM, which can be fatal.
On the other hand, the spread of information to keep people from hurting themselves is also likely to inform people who didn't know about DXM, and will want to try it. DXM is still an unknown to many people (although not as big an unknown as most think - pockets of recreational DXM use have existed as long as DXM has). I've come to the conclusion that I'd rather have a bunch of people doing it safely than a few doing it dangerously - but then again, I'm also in favor of sex education.
Thus, I encourage anyone who may want to try DXM or tell her or his friends to try it (which I again explicitly tell you not to do) to make sure and emphasize all the risks and dangers involved. Don't rush into high dosages. Don't trip alone, or without a designated sober person. Don't encourage people who are not psychologically mature to experiment with DXM. And please use common sense and be safe.
In the event that DXM-only preparations do get pulled, the best answer is probably to have an isolation method that will separate the DXM from other ingredients. In my opinion, the most likely additive is guaifenesin (although people were using Robitussin DMTM long ago, and just toughing out the inevitable extreme nausea). I've been working on a way to separate the DXM from guaifenesin, using commonly available substances, and producing a pure, safe product. We don't want another "cat" (methcathinone) media-scare on our hands. Currently I offer a method for evaluation only; this method is not proven. I'm posting it with the FAQ so that other people can give it their consideration.
In conclusion I'd like to remind everyone that we may be walking on thin ice here. I've tried my absolute hardest to make this FAQ as accurate and scholarly as possible, so that if anyone who matters ever does get a look at it, they'll get bored somewhere around the explanation of P450-2D6 polymorphism. Still, please use common sense.
I have tried to make this document useful for a variety of audiences, and as such it can sometimes get fairly technical. If confused, consult the glossary; if still confused, check with a basic neuropharmacology text. I unfortunately do not have the time to answer general questions about neuropharmacology; I'm employed full time at a small ISP, trying to finish my education, and married.
This document is broken up into chapters and sections by subject, with appendices, references, glossary, and index. At present, figures and diagrams are fairly minimal; I'm trying to improve that aspect. Also, sometimes I simplify things a bit. If you take exception to anything, email me with references and I'll consider modifying it.
This document is distributed in three forms: ASCII text on Usenet; HTML on the World Wide web (http://www.frognet.net/dxm), and in printed form. I try to keep the HTML copy the most current, not an easy task considering the length of the document. I still haven't found an HTML editor that beats vi.
The following additional formats will be made available as I have time to create them: Microsoft WordTM PostScriptTM and PDF. Email me for requests for any other format. Requests for oddball printer formats will be redirected to the bit bucket. Again, apologies; I just don't have much time anymore.
If this is coming to you via Usenet, please note that the Usenet version is subdivided into sections; some news machines choke on very long files. I do not post the section on what you can synthesize from DXM, since it's mostly specialized information. Email me if you want it. Otherwise, posting is once a month, with the DXM Quick Reference being posted biweekly. If I'm eating up your bandwidth, I'm sorry; recently a lot of DXM use has been going on and I want to make sure everyone has the facts available.