Drug and Alcohol

NyQuil Addiction: Causes, Signs & How to Recover From DXM Addiction

NyQuil, like other over-the-counter medications containing DXM, is potentially addictive. Learn more about NyQuil addiction in our blog.

NyQuil Addiction: Causes, Signs & How to Recover from DXM Addiction

Table of Contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

March 10, 2023

The Edge Treatment Center

Wait a minute…you can get addicted to NyQuil?

Drug addiction is a chronic health condition. It develops through the prolonged use of addictive substances, legal and otherwise. It is now defined as a brain dysfunction because addictive substances affect the neurotransmitters in the brain. These substances work by releasing a high concentration of dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in the body’s reward system.

This flood of dopamine is the high people chase when doing drugs. It is not long before our body becomes physically dependent on it. As soon as the user tries to quit the habit, their body experiences withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms vary from mild to severe and can even turn fatal. 

By the Numbers

Currently, 50% of the American population above the age of 12 have once used illicit drugs in their lifetime. Nearly 25.4% of illegal drug users suffer from drug disorders.

There are so many things in the household that can be abused. One such is NyQuil, an over-the-counter cough medication that comes in liquid and pill form. NyQuil looks like a harmless medication without the potential abuse of, say, Xanax or prescription amphetamines like Adderall. And for most, NyQuil simply helps them deal with cold and flu symptoms.

When abused, it's another story. 

What Is NyQuil?

Nyquil is a widespread medication used to treat the symptoms of the flu and the common cold. This innocent-looking bottle is easily accessible and can be abused by anyone. A 2019 national survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the University of Michigan noted that less than 3% of the US adolescent population uses cough medicines and DXM (dextromethorphan, one of the active ingredients in NyQuil) products to get high.

There have been thousands of emergency room cases where people have overdosed on this simple common cold medication. Some people often combine it with other medicines and alcohol. This is why more people need to be aware of the ill health effects Nyquil can have on people, especially younger people.

Many even call Nyquil a gateway drug as it introduces an individual to other forms of hard drugs.

What Is NyQuil Addiction?

NyQuil is a commonly found over-the-counter medication found in any drug store, pharmacy, or mass retailer. It is generally used to help manage the common symptoms of flu, the common cold, and other similar illnesses and allergies. It is considered a safe choice for people and kids above the age of 6.

Nyquil temporarily relieves a person's cough, sore throat, headache, runny nose, fever, sneezes, etc. It also provides enough comfort to the person suffering and can help in sleeping through the night. It contains three active ingredients to reduce pain and fever:

  • Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen helps to reduce the fever and gives temporary relief to minor pain.

  • Doxylamine: Doxylamine is an anti-allergy or antihistamine ingredient that helps with a sore throat, coughing, sneezing, and sleeping.

  • Dextromethorphan (DXM): DXM is a cough suppressant.

Although it's an over-the-counter medication, DXM is psychoactive in high doses, producing hallucinations and euphoria. It's even got some street names: robo, skittles, red devils, and so on. DXM abuse can lead to effects like hyperactivity, sweating, increased heart rate, hallucinations, and more.

Most people only take this medication when needed, but some use NyQuil recreationally. Not everyone who takes the medication will be at risk of addiction or abuse, but those who take extra dosage to get high can soon develop a psychological addiction to DXM.

Originally intended to suppress the coughing, excessive use can produce a feeling of hallucinations and euphoria. As it has effects similar to LSD and other such drugs, teenagers abuse NyQuil. Not only is this medication easily obtainable and legal for anyone, but it is also economically feasible. Besides mind-altering effects, many individuals with insomnia and other sleep-related disorders also use and abuse NyQuil to fall asleep.

What Are the Signs of NyQuil Addiction?

Even though the chances of getting addicted to NyQuil are smaller than most other addictive substances (like opioid cough syrup), the ingredients involved, doxylamine and dextromethorphan, are potent stimulants. One of the first signs of NyQuil's addiction would be tolerance. Even though it is not as addictive as prescribed opioids, if someone takes an increasingly high dose of NyQuil over a longer time, it is possible to develop a tolerance for it. To build tolerance, a person would get caught up in achieving the desire to feel high. Apart from that, there are several other initial signs of NyQuil's addiction. 

Common signs of Nyquil addiction and abuse:

  • Hallucinations

  • Sleeping more than usual

  • Confused and disoriented state of mind

  • A sudden increase in blood pressure

  • Uncoordinated movements and impaired motor controls

In some cases, people may even get seizures. This is especially the case with those already suffering from this condition. 

Suppose you suspect someone close to you might be abusing Nyquil. In that case, you will also notice that there will be a sudden onset of mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, restlessness, etc. Also, keep an eye out for similar-natured medications. There is a high possibility that someone abusing Nyquil might also be using similar medicines of different brands. 

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Common NyQuil Addiction Symptoms

Individuals who are addicted to Nyquil can give various telltale signs. If you are near any such person, you will notice several symptoms of addiction. One of the biggest symptoms of addiction are symptoms of withdrawal. The person may have cravings for NyQuil and or DXM, and their sleeping patterns will be disturbed.

Also, after a bit, NyQuil will produce the opposite effect. People who initially sought Nyquil to gain fitful sleep will start to experience insomnia. This will only take place after excessive use of it. 

Common NyQuil addiction symptoms include:

  • Withdrawal symptoms when NyQuil use stops

  • Insomnia

  • Intense Craving

  • Overdose of NyQuil

What Are the NyQuil Addiction Side Effects?

Getting addicted to Nyquil is not like being dependent on any other drug. But it is still a sedative and a well-known fact that people often abuse sedatives. One should never underestimate the possibility of abusing a sedative that can produce a mind-altering effect its overuse.

Many might not be aware that the abuse of Nyquil is part of a practice known as Robotripping. The name originated from Robitussin, a cold medicine that people abused. Robotripping is a decades-old practice of using cold medications that contain DXM. Nyquil produces comparatively lesser euphoric effects, due to which many people end up combining it with other drugs.

To amplify and double the stimulatory effects, people often combine Nyquil with alcohol and marijuana. This is where the condition can turn out to be dangerous. Mixing up the drugs can have fatal effects and hazardous reactions. To understand the side effects of Nyquil abuse, you must understand the distinction between the side of the abuse and the side effects of the medication. 

Some of the major side effects of using Nyquil:

As Nyquil is a sedative that helps a person with cold flu to sleep through the night without much difficulty, its most prominent side effect is a sleepy feeling and drowsiness. They may also show blurred vision, slurred speech, dry mouth, nervousness, dizziness, stomach ache, nausea, and more. 

Some of the major side effects of abusing Nyquil:

A person abusing Nyquil may experience side effects like lightheadedness, vomiting, sleepiness, losing consciousness, possible liver damage, and even an allergy to Nyquil. If a person develops an allergy to this medication, they can suffer from itchiness, skin rashes, hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling on the face, throat, and mouth. 

Common NyQuil Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms

If someone uses Nyquil with the correct dosage, they will almost certainly not become addicted to it. But if someone misuses it and takes a higher dose, they might develop a dependence on it. Some people take Nyquil to treat health issues like bronchitis, asthma, etc. Once people become dependent on it, it becomes tough to quit them.

Physical dependence on Nyquil starts when people experience withdrawal effects when they stop using NyQuil These effects and symptoms range from mild to severe. 

The withdrawal symptoms from Nyquil addiction include:

  • Anxiety

  • Chills

  • Depression

  • Insomnia

  • Shaking and tremors

  • Craving for Nyquil

  • Restlessness

  • Stomach pain and nausea

  • Dissociative state

  • Hot flashes

  • Excessive sweating

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Do you have more questions about NyQuil addiction? Reach out.

How to Get Help for A NyQuil Addiction

If you or someone close to you have finally decided to do something about your addiction, the best way to move forward and kick the addiction habit is to seek medical help by going for treatment at a drug rehab.

If your addiction is mild, you will only have to undergo drug detox. It is a procedure in which a patient's body is cleansed, and all the toxic substances are removed from the body. However, if the severity of the addiction is high, a patient has to stay in the facility under the residential treatment program, also known as inpatient drug rehab.

During drug rehab, a patient will also be attending therapies. These therapies can be both group-based or individual. Here, the patients will learn everything about addiction and how to cope safely. In addition, they will help you in living your life drug-free ahead.

Struggling with NyQuil Addiction? The Edge Treatment Center Will Help You Leave DXM Abuse Behind

NyQuil may be an over-the-counter drug, but it's entirely possible to get addicted to it. Addiction is less about a particular substance and more about outcomes and behaviors. If you or a loved one is struggling with NyQuil addiction, don't feel guilty. The Edge Treatment Center will help you.

Our outpatient drug rehab is the ideal place to recover from DXM abuse. A safe, welcoming space, we'll make sure you have every resource you need to leave NyQuil abuse behind permanently. If you want to learn more about over-the-counter drug abuse and NyQuil addiction, contact The Edge Treatment Center today.

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