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DXM: Legal substance abused by some to get high can be lethal
BY KRISTA LEWIN, Staff Writer
The next time your children talk about Skittles, make sure they are talking about candy, says Douglas County Coroner Joe Victor.
Skittles, usually known as a colorful coated candy, is also one of the street names for a lethal, but legal drug known as dextromethorphan.
Dextromethorphan, also known as DXM, is an ingredient found in over-the-counter cold and cough remedies, including NyQuil and DayQuil, Theraflu and Robitussin. If cold and cough remedies containing DXM are taken in proper dosages, they are safe and DXM as an ingredient in these remedies has proven to work as a cough suppressant.
But individuals seeking a high will risk the dangers to themselves by consuming large quantities of cough syrup or ingesting DXM in its pure powder form, purchased either from drug dealers or over the Internet through auction sites.
It is completely legal to purchase or possess DXM, said Master Sgt. Steve Guess, East Central Illinois Drug Task Force.
When individuals abuse DXM by consuming higher doses than the recommended 15-30 milligrams, typically more than 306 milligrams, they risk injuring themselves and others because of the drug's effects on visual perception and cognitive process, according to a report from the National Drug Intelligence Center, which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice. Risks associated with DXM include nausea, abdominal pain, high-blood pressure, seizures, brain damage and death, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center.
DXM in its pure form is reported to produce hallucinations, Victor said. "It is being compared to LSD of the 1960s," said Victor. "It has that effect, but it is more dangerous. It is flat out scary."
The DXM problem is new to East Central Illinois, Guess said. The first time the East Central Illinois Drug Task Force learned of DXM was during the investigation into the recent death of Hindsboro teen-ager Eric Richardson, Guess said.
At Richardson's inquest Tuesday, the results of an autopsy reported that Richardson died Feb. 5 from an overdose of DXM. The coroner's jury's verdict ruled Richardson committed suicide.
Austin Eriksen, 18, of Oakland also ingested a large quantity of DXM, along with Richardson, on Feb. 5. Eriksen was found unconscious near Richardson. According to the Illinois State Police and Douglas County sheriff, Eriksen, who survived, allegedly purchased the DXM over the Internet and allegedly told people he was surprised he was alive because he and Richardson both ingested 15 tablets each.
Police reported during the inquest Eriksen had left a suicide note to his girlfriend the night before he and Richardson ingested the tablets.
Victor believes Eriksen might have survived because after he ingested the tablets "his body said tilt "and kicked them out" by vomiting.
The investigation into Richardson's death prompted East Central Illinois Drug Task Force Agent Mark Peyton to contact eBay, a popular Internet auction site and warn them of the dangers of DXM. eBay agreed with Peyton and removed the auctions from the site. eBay is now prohibiting the sale of DXM, Guess said.
However, new street names for DXM are continually being created to try and elude law enforcement. Some of the current names include Dex, DM, Drex, Robo, Rojo, Skittles, Triple C and Velvet.
Although they haven't seen many cases of individuals seeking treatment for DXM , Deb Briseno, program director, Central East Alcoholism and Drug Council, CEAD, said the prevention and treatment staff have been doing research about DXM to be prepared if necessary.
"We are obviously concerned and we are looking into it," Briseno said.
Because the drug can be purchased in over-the-counter cold medicines, it makes it very obtainable, Briseno said. It is also dangerous because it has an hallucinogenic effect which alters the person's state of consciousness, she said.
Briseno encouraged individuals or those concerned about an individual with a drug or alcohol problem to contact CEAD and get treatment. She said they have in-patient and ou-patient programs. The contact number is 348-8108.
Guess said the East Central Illinois Drug Task Force does presentations for police agencies, students, parents and civic groups about drug awareness and dangers of drug abuse. They have recently added information about DXM, Guess said. For more information, contact (800) 628-2958.