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Some drugs do not fall into any of the major categories of substances but can still be problematic and even dangerous if they are abused. Two of the most common drugs that fit this description are dextromethorphan and synthetic cannabinoids. The first is an over-the-counter medication found in many cough and cold formulations. The second is an illegal substance created to mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that causes the “high.” Although they are not legal in this country, they are often disguised as potpourri or another non-edible substance so that they can be sold at gas stations, convenience stores and over the Internet.

Dextromethorphan Overview

History of Dextromethorphan

Also known as DXM, dextromethorphan was initially approved by the FDA for use as a cough suppressant in 1958. Two decades later, it was removed from the market due to the growing abuse of the substance. When it was reintroduced, it was placed into formulations with an unpleasant taste to discourage DXM misuse. However, the new formulations have not stopped DXM abuse, which is becoming a prevalent problem once again, especially among younger users.

Short-Term Effects of DXM

When DXM is taken for nonmedical reasons, the intoxication that results can be similar to alcohol or marijuana. Higher amounts can also lead to hallucinations and a distorted sense of reality. Other short-term effects of DXM might include:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Vision changes
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired short-term memory
  • Elevated blood pressure and heart rate
  • Stomach pain and vomiting

Long-Term Damage of DXM

When used in extremely high doses or over an extended period, DXM can lead to additional damage, including;

  • Liver failure
  • Rapid heart rate, known as tachycardia
  • Depressed respiration
  • Hyperthermia (dangerously elevated body temperature)
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Signs of Addiction

DXM users can become addicted to the substance over time. Signs to watch for consist of:

  • Tolerance – needing higher amounts to achieve the desired effect
  • Uncomfortable symptoms if the substance is stopped, known as withdrawal
  • Spending more time using and recovering from the impact of the drug
  • More time spent away from family, friends and activities
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Abrupt mood changes that might include anger, hostility or depression
  • Inability to focus, problems with short-term memory

Synthetic Cannabinoids Overview

History of Synthetic Cannabinoids

Synthetic marijuana has a much shorter history, with its introduction in Europe as recently as 2004. Four years later, the substance made its appearance in the U.S. Also referred to as spice or K2; this drug is created in underground labs and designed to mimic the effects of marijuana. However, the potency of the substances, combined with the possibility they are laced with other chemicals, makes them much more dangerous in many cases. Despite the hazard, use of these drugs has been on the rise in recent years, as well as emergency room visits related to the intense side effects.

Short-Term Effects

The effects of synthetic cannabinoids are similar to those achieved with marijuana:

  • Feeling of relaxation
  • Distortion in senses and perception
  • Increased heart rate and body temperature
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion, anxiety and paranoia

Because it is difficult to know the potency of the substance or whether other chemicals are in the mix, the effects of these drugs can be somewhat unpredictable. In some cases, symptoms can be severe and even life-threatening and are accounting for a growing number of emergency room visits each year.

Long-Term Damage

When used over an extended period, the damage done by synthetic cannabinoids can be even more severe. Although the drugs are still too new to know exactly how the can impact the body over the long-term, some users report the following effects:

  • Memory loss and persistent confusion
  • Paralysis, which may be temporary or long-lasting
  • Heart and kidney damage
  • Persistent hallucinations, even after the drug is stopped
  • Depression, anxiety, paranoia and suicidal thoughts and ideations

Signs of Addiction

Synthetic cannabinoids are addictive, which can make it difficult for users to quit without professional support. Signs a person might be addicted to the substance include:

  • Needing additional amounts of the substance to achieve the desired “high”
  • Being unable to stop using even if the drug is causing problems in the person’s life
  • Withdrawal symptoms if the drug is stopped, compelling the individual to use once again
  • Isolating oneself from friends, family, activities and hobbies

Seeking Treatment

Both DXM and synthetic cannabinoids are substances that can have potentially dangerous effects including dependency. If you are a professional struggling with either of these drugs, you may feel there is nowhere to turn for help that will not jeopardize your career. However, the Center for Professional Recovery works with professionals in the medical and other industries every day, helping them achieve a successful recovery and often return to their careers in time. If you need help, contact our center today at 866.298.0056.

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