Over the past few months, I have been very bored, and therefore experimented with many substances, including dextromethorphan. I will try to relate my personal view of these experiences with DXM rather than explain technical aspects of recreative DXM use; it's been done it in other places way better than I could do it, Google "DXM FAQ" and you'll learn everything you might want to know about sigma receptors and Olney's lesions. The purpose of this retrospective is to give you a subjective but detailed view of the evolution of my DXM (ab)use and what it changed in my life, so to help you make up your mind about it.
It all started like it must have started for many other DXM users: "Cough syrup can get you high!?!". Since the beginning of this year of 2008, my interest for drugs was growing every day as I would spend hours reading the Vaults of Erowid, from Absinthe to Zolpidem; I inevitably stumbled upon dextromethorphan, and after reading up a bit more, it quickly became clear to me that I had to try it.
A few recon trips to the drugstores around my house confirmed what I first feared: there are no DXM HBr-only preparations available in my area, and I didn't want to risk guaifesin (projectile vomiting? no thanks) or home extraction. There is however one brand of DXM polistirex-containing preparation, but since polistirex use is somewhat less frequent (and less documented), I was at first reluctant, and let's open a parenthesis explaining why:
(To sum up for those who do not want to go through the trouble of doing the research themselves, and hoping that I have it right, DXM in most preparations is found in the form of a hydrobromide (HBr) salt. However, in some preparations, the DXM molecule is linked to an edible plastic (polistirex), that is slowly digested and therefore slowly releases the DXM in the bloodstream for longer cough relief... And this whole principle can be transposed to recreative DXM use: slower onset, maybe less intense plateau (for a same dose) and much longer overall duration of effects. Also, the slower the metabolization, the more "saturated" the digestive enzymes become before the rest of the dose is metabolized; therefore, less DXM is metabolized to DXO and the effects are more dissociative and psychotomimetic, making for a weirder and potentially less pleasant experience. Add to that the fact that the indications on the bottle are obviously not designed with trippers in mind: "one tablespoon (5ml) contains a dose of DXM polistirex equivalent to 15 mg of dextromethorphan hydrobromide" left me confused as to whether the dose was considered "equivalent" in terms of cough relief or of quantity of DXM... And I still don't know how much DXM is in polistirex preparations, mind you.)
Of course that didn't stop me from trying. One day of mid-June, coming home from school, I went to the drugstore and bought the 8 oz bottle. Then, at home, I first took a dose you would take to relieve cough and nothing more (5 ml, 1 teaspoon?), to make sure that if I was allergic to an ingredient or another, I wouldn't have ingested a whole bottle of it. It obviously doesn't taste good, but it is not horrible. 15 minutes later, persuaded that any allergy would have been noticed already, I drank down maybe a quarter of the bottle. Half an hour later, I drank half of it, and shortly after that, in sheer horror, I wondered if I had drunk too much; I wasn't feeling anything yet, but what if it hit me very hard later and my parents came home only to see me dead on the floor with a bottle of cough syrup in my hand? So I did the only thing that seemed reasonable at the time: proceed to make myself vomit. I only had an apple for lunch, so I mostly puked weird-tasting bile. After that I laid down on my couch, still scared but also still very curious, waiting for any effects to manifest themselves, with some good music turned on. And soon I was convinced that DXM was not a hoax. A weird relaxing feeling washed over me, and I understood fully what the "concert hall effect" related by many users was all about: never had Gogol Bordello sounded so incredibly profound! The music seemed to come from inside my being, as if I was feeling it and not hearing it! I could hear all the instruments and vocals independently while still listening to the rest of the music, and my imagination conjured up images of great landscapes and invisible revolutions to the beat of the music (not as true visuals, mind you; simply enhanced imagination). I have never been able to distinguish clearly the "plateaus" of effects as many other users do, and that may be because of the slower digestion of DXM-polistirex (and therefore smoother "curve" of effects), but the effects I felt were clearly consistent with descriptions of lower "plateaus": heightened musical appreciation, slight feeling of "alieness" and strong desire to move around yet very relaxed state of mind. I managed to avoid my family the whole night by pretexting a bad stomachache (which wasn't totally a lie), and listened to music in my bed until I drifted into deep sleep. I awoke the next morning feeling like a million bucks plus tax, a mix of the excitement from the discovery I made and of the weird energizing effects of a low dose themselves. I was also relieved for a few hours of the chronic headaches I have almost every single day of my life, or rather they felt "irrelevant"; those are not very intense headaches but they make my whole life feel tiresome at times. After this first experience, DXM became the most fantastic thing on Earth for me, but little did I know what dirty tricks DXM still had in its sleeve for me.
I obviously had to talk about my first experience to some people I knew; none of my friends were really thrilled by the discovery, but they were obviously as surprised as I first was to learn that most cough syrups contain a powerful dissociative anaesthetic. My little brother, however, was quite interested. He is in some ways pretty mature for his age, and I wouldn't have told him about DXM if I didn't think he was ready for it. He might very well be more emotionally and socially stable than me, in fact. So, about a month later, one weekday I wasn't working (I have a summer job), we both drank our 8oz bottle in the morning and waited for the trip to come. He got the "robo-itch", a quite common reaction to DXM, badly enough to have some scars from scratching the next day, while I never had that problem. He also puked a bit of bile and water, but since it happened as he was starting to trip, he said it didn't feel that bad actually (DXM really makes your body feel different, or, rather, irrelevant). And there we went, listening to music, enjoying the sunny day, swimming in our pool, watching patterns creep out of TV snow, walking like maniacs around the neighborhood and basically having as much fun as one can have on the lower plateaus. We were feeling very close to each other (in a brotherly way, you sick psycho!), as DXM really modifies relationships with people, objects, even concepts and thoughts; I feel it brings you closer to some things and further to others. At the end of the day, as we were coming down, he confessed to me that it was the most fucked up thing he ever did, and that it had been quite enjoyable. We left it at that, referring to that day every now and then as you would refer to any great time you had with somebody. And as any other fun experience, we wanted to do it again sometime.
About a month and a half later (beginning of August), I crossed a treshold that may seem trivial, but that definitely marked a new "step" in my story of DXM use: I first used DXM alone, except obviously for my first experience. I was by no mean alone that night, but I was the only one in a bunch of pot-smokers and alcohol-drinkers to instead chug an 8oz bottle of cough syrup, in fact without any of them knowing. They noticed that I acted quite weird, but attributed that to the marijuana (I don't smoke marijuana often, but it was an occasion). It was the first time I tried the marijuana-DXM combination, and I enjoyed it pretty much. Music took an almost epic quality (especially System of a Down), random thoughts raced in my head and I felt much more aware than usual of all the little "white lies", body language and unspoken meanings scattered over the conversation of the drunk and stoned people around me, a phenomenon I obviously found quite interesting to watch. I attributed that at the time to the DXM-induced loss of social "conditioning", making all the non-spoken aspects of communication consciously noticeable. The stimulant quality of DXM and 5-6 CDs kept me up all night; I watched the sunrise on a pier and then went to bed, fell quickly asleep and bolted straight up a few hours later. I noticed a quite weird hangover-like effect, that was more like a weak continuation of the effects but for the whole day. It was a very interesting day: I visited a Cold War nuclear bunker, and the already strange atmosphere of the place became truly eerie in the haze of a DXM hangover. I was however quite happy to finally get home and have more sleep. Smoking marijuana the day after brought flashback effects, and I couldn't really call them enjoyable; I was feeling very confused, hot and cold at the same time as one would with a fever, and my thoughts raced in every direction possible.
A few days later, I got an e-mail from one of my friends: he was back from his summer job (quite far from the hometown) and willing to try DXM with me. DXM tolerance builds up every time a dose is taken, and then slowly degrades in a few weeks or month, depending on frequency and intensity of past trips, or so I read. I thus thought that my next trip would be lessened by the tolerance built up from the week before, but a joint of good-quality marijuana sent me as far as I've been before. The trip with my friend was much similar to the one I had the week before, but we stayed more in silence, listening to music and sometimes discussing the effects we felt. The next day, he was suffering from severe tiredness while I felt, as usual after a DXM trip, very energized; despite that, he wanted to try again, and this time at a higher plateau. The higher plateaus are much more alien; short-term memory is nearly inexistent (it is easy to end up somewhere and only realise it later) though judgement itself isn't too much affected, crazy visuals jump out of complete darkness, and true visions of other worlds, feelings of uncarnate conscious beings surrounding our universe and other self-referential abstract thoughts are common. Obviously, reading this and understanding it are two different things; I obviously thought the same as I read such descriptions over the net, and we were both determined to see it for ourselves some day.
Three weeks later came that day. Those three weeks were spent with both great expectation for the next trip, an expectation that made me feel uneasy when I thought about it: was I becoming an addict? No, of course not, I was not craving for DXM, and I never had any withdrawal symptoms. The day arrived, and with it relief, great excitement but also a lingering feeling that I would in fact become an addict if I kept doing DXM. We bought three bottles for the two of us, and had some good marijuana rolled. We did as usual: we started with a bottle each, a good joint, and lots of music. When we were well into the lower plateaus, it hit me: I did not enjoy the effects as much as I used to. I did not tell this to my friend, who was only having his second time with DXM anyway, and when he proposed that we each drink another half bottle, I accepted. Maybe half an hour later, it hit us full force: we both retreated into a selfish dissociative universe; I recall visions of a dimly lit gate of white marble, but I don't remember much since DXM is the worst thing you can ever inflict to your short-term memory. I spent the whole night in a state I could neither describe as "awake" or "asleep", lying on my bed in the dark with earphones on, or suddenly realizing I was standing in the bathroom talking to myself, or exchanging life energies with floating entities outside of any space or time. The experience was definitely mind-blowing; I can only describe certain moments of it as the feeling of reaching the Absolute, of Being One. Still quite dissociated the next morning, we didn't discuss the experience much except that it was the craziest thing we've both ever done, and my friend left.
This is two weeks ago from now. The past two weeks have been somewhat hard. The expectation I feel for the next trip feels really unhealthy; I found myself craving it so much that I had to smoke pot, take a shower, run around the block, anything to keep my mind busy. I cannot listen to the music I listened to while under the influence of DXM without feeling deeply "moved", somewhat nostalgic of the other consciousnesses I visited and at the same time very tense. I will probably never be able to enjoy marijuana the same way as before; it now has a touch of DXM to it everytime I smoke. Days are long, common tasks are a real pain, long-term motivations are inexistant; I have always been a bit that way, but it is now exacerbated the way it was during some depression phases I have had earlier in my life. I am considering now that the next trip might be my last, and that I will have to stop DXM forever after that to avoid becoming a real addict. DXM addiction is something that crawls up on you very slowly, very slyly; I would have never suspected anything like this from a drug like DXM, but here I am now, knowing that I should stop before it is too late.
I hope that my story of DXM use will help you make up your mind about DXM: if you choose to use it, you'll know the risks; I wish you mind-blowing fun for the time it will last, but keep it as occasionnal as possible. If you choose not to use it, you might very well be doing the wisest thing; you might never experience the crazy times DXM induces, but maybe you just don't need that either. I know my life has found a weird sense now that I have had a "glimpse of God", as I like to refer to it, but it raised a hell lot of questions and dilemmas, most of which yet unanswered, and DXM is on my mind night and day; I just can't stop thinking about it. Whatever your choice, take care of yourself, and thank you for reading.