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The Dangers of Robotripping: What You Should Know

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

February 16, 2024

Table of Contents

What is Robotripping?

Dextromethorphan is available as an over-the-counter formulation that can temporarily alleviate coughing triggered by flu, colds, or other ailments. DMX belongs to a class of medications called antitussives.

DXM is available alone and also in combination products with medications like decongestants and antihistamines.

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While the synthetic substance DXM is related to opioids, it does not cause analgesia and it has minimal sedating effect.

When taken in high doses, the effects of dextromethorphan abuse are similar to the effects of ketamine and PCP (phencyclidine). Indeed, a slang term for DXM is poor man’s PCP. As a result, people often abuse dextromethorphan for its hallucinogenic and euphoric effects.

The misuse or abuse of DXM goes by many names, including:

  • Robotripping

  • Skittling

  • Dexing

According to this DXM factsheet published by the DEA, the most abused products associated with robotripping are:

Both of these are over-the-counter cough and cold medicines.

The DEA states that four different plateaus or levels can occur during a robotrip:

  1. First plateau: Doses of DXM from 100mg to 200mg induce mild stimulation.

  2. Second plateau: At doses between 200mg and 400mg, you will experience euphoria and hallucinations.

  3. Third plateau: DXM doses between 300mg and 600mg can distort visual perceptions and cause problems with motor coordination.

  4. Fourth plateau: The highest DXM plateau occurs at doses from 500mg to 1,500mg. DXM doses this high can bring about dissociative sedation.

The abuse of DXM for these recreational effects known as robotripping comes with some dangers that we’ll highlight below.

How Long Does a Robotrip Last?

Research shows that the effects of taking high doses of DXM take effect after 30 to 60 minutes, peaking after between two and four hours. Your BMI (body mass index) and the dose of DXM will influence the speed at which it kicks in.

Robotripping effects typically wear off after around six hours. The following variables can impact the duration of effects:

  • Dose of DXM
  • Your size and weight
  • Other active ingredients
  • Amount of food in your stomach

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Robotripping Symptoms

The physical effects induced by DXM abuse vary according to the individual and the dose, as well as the type of DXM – some DXM products contain a variety of active ingredients, all producing their own effects.

Potential side effects of robotripping include:

  • Nausea
  • Hot flashes
  • Sweating
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Increased body temperature
  • Slurred speech
  • Lethargy
  • Dizziness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Slow breathing
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Unconsciousness
  • Involuntary eye movements
  • Seizure
  • Overdose

The Dangers of DXM and Robotripping

If you are tempted to try a robotrip, you should first consider the following potential dangers of this reckless form of recreational drug abuse:

  1. Engaging in risky behaviors

  2. Increased risk of overdose and toxicity in some people

  3. Can cause respiratory depression

  4. Possibility of liver damage

  5. Heatstroke

1) Engaging in risky behaviors

Taken in high doses, DXM is linked with dangerous behaviors stemming from the following effects:

  • Agitation

  • Hallucinations

  • Psychosis

If robotripping causes you to temporarily lose touch with reality, you will be more likely to engage in risky behaviors you would otherwise avoid.

Some research links DXM misuse with assault, homicide, and suicide.

2) Increased risk of overdose and toxicity in some people

According to DEA reports, between 5% and 10% of Caucasians struggle to efficiently metabolize DXM.

In those people, it takes longer for DXM to leave the system, heightening the risk of fatal overdose.

3) Can cause respiratory depression

As a CNS depressant, DXM depresses the central nervous system. The CNS is responsible for controlling your breathing.

If large doses of DXM prevent your lungs from exchanging carbon dioxide and oxygen, this can trigger respiratory depression. When untreated, the resultant slow and shallow breathing can cause respiratory arrest, possibly with deadly consequences.

4) Possibility of liver damage

Many OTC medications containing DXM also contain acetaminophen. This can cause serious liver damage, possibly fatal, when consumed in large doses.

5) Heatstroke

DXM has been associated with heat stroke and other heat emergencies. This is due to the way the medication disrupts temperature regulation in your body.

The risk of developing heatstroke when robotripping is magnified if you engage in physical exertion like dancing. For this reason, the condition is sometimes called rave-related heatstroke.

  • Note: If you take DXM with other substances, whether OTC medications, prescription medications, or illicit drugs, this can provoke serious interactions. Taking DXM in combination with other CNS depressants significantly increases the risk for overdose, respiratory arrest, and death.

A woman sits with her hands on her face representing how long does dxm take to kick in

How Long Does DMX Take to Kick In?

You may be worried that you or a loved one may have taken a dangerous dose of DXM and are wondering, “how long does DXM take to hit?”.

While it should be noted that not all doses of DXM can cause overdose, a high dose can cause unwanted effects. In any case of ingesting DMX, it can start to take effect within 30 minutes to 2 hours after consumption. 

This timeline can vary depending on the individual’s unique metabolism, the amount they took, and the form the drug is in. 

DXM in different forms typically follows this timeline:

 

  1. DXM Syrup or Liquid: 30 minutes-1 hour.
  2. DXM Pills or Gel Capsules: Around 1-2 hours.
  3. Extended-Release Formulations: Up to 2-4 hours.

 

If you have concerns that when DMX hits you or a loved one will have overdose symptoms, read on to learn more about what to do. 

Dextromethorphan Overdose

While Dextromethorphan is generally safe when used as directed, DXM overdose can occur at high doses following misuse. When more than the recommended dosage is taken, several effects can occur including:

  1. Hallucinations
  2. Confusion
  3. Dizziness
  4. Impaired mobility
  5. Elevated heart rate
  6. And Seizures

 

While some of these symptoms may not seem dangerous, in extreme cases, these hallucinations and confusion spells can lead to a serious dissociative state where the individuals lose touch with reality and experience delusions, becoming a danger to themselves and others.

When used recreationally, DXM is often combined with other drugs causing any risk of severe or deadly overdose symptoms to heighten. Serious complications like difficulty breathing, organ failure, and even death can occur in a situation where more than one drug is being taken.

It is highly unadvised to take more than the recommended dosage of DMX for recreational purposes with the amount of risk associated with cold medicine abuse.

If you or a loved one are exhibiting concerning DMX overdose symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately for medical intervention. 

In non-emergency situations, having someone drive the impaired individual to the hospital for care is recommended if health concerns arise. 

A woman look out of a window to represent using cough medicine to robotrip.

How to Stop Robotripping

If you’re looking to stop robotripping and get help for a cough syrup addiction, our team at Renaissance Recovery has your back. Learning to stop an addiction is not something you can do on your own, in fact the DXM withdrawal symptoms can lead to a number of physical and mental health problems that can even be life-threatening in certain situations.

Addiction is not something to be ignored and likely not something you can solve on your own. Addiction is a disease and like other diseases needs professional help to treat. Our team at Renaissance Recovery can provide you with the support and tools you need to fight back against addiction and learn how to stop robotripping.

Robotripping FAQs

What does robotripping mean?

Robotripping refers to the recreational use of cold medications and cough medicines containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to achieve dissociative and hallucinogenic effects. Users consume these medicines in large quantities, often exceeding recommended dosages, in order to experience altered perception, intense hallucinations, and a sense of detachment from reality.

How long does it take for DXM to kick in?

DXM generally takes 30 to 60 minutes to take effect after ingestion. However, individual factors like metabolism, dosage, and form of DXM used can influence the onset time. The effects of DXM can last for several hours, with peak intensity occurring around 2 to 3 hours after ingestion. It is important to consider these factors and the potential variability in onset and duration when using DXM.

How long does a DXM trip last?

The duration of robotripping, the recreational use of cough medicine containing dextromethorphan (DXM), can vary depending on factors such as dosage and individual metabolism. Generally, the effects of robotripping can last anywhere from 4 to 8 hours.

Stop DXM Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

While dextromethorphan (DXM) is legally available, its misuse in the form of “robotripping” can lead to serious and lasting effects, including dependence. At Renaissance Recovery, we specialize in outpatient addiction treatment, offering the same services as residential rehab at a more affordable cost.

For those struggling with more severe substance use disorders resulting from robotripping, we provide intensive outpatient programs (IOP) and partial hospitalization programs (PHP). Our dual diagnosis treatment program  addresses co-occurring mental health disorders alongside addiction.

Our evidence-based treatments include medication-assisted treatment (MAT), individual and group counseling, family therapy, and psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

After completing your program, you’ll either transition back to daily life or move to a less intensive outpatient program. In either case, you’ll leave with new coping skills, a relapse prevention plan, and ongoing aftercare support. Addiction is a chronic condition, but with our help, you can navigate it from detox to discharge and beyond.

To take the first step, contact admissions at 866.330.9449.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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