Journal Article

Dextromethorphan in Wisconsin Drivers*

Amy Cochems, Patrick Harding and Laura Liddicoat

in Journal of Analytical Toxicology

Volume 31, issue 4, pages 227-232
Published in print May 2007 | ISSN: 0146-4760
Published online May 2007 | e-ISSN: 1945-2403 | DOI:
Dextromethorphan in Wisconsin Drivers*

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Dextromethorphan is a synthetic analogue of codeine used in hundreds of over-the-counter medications for its antitussive effects. There have been numerous reports of dextromethorphan abuse by young adults. Dextromethorphan can produce psychoactive effects similar to that of marijuana, and higher doses will produce dissociative effects, including sensory enhancement and hallucinations. The Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene examined data from blood samples submitted from January 1999 through December 2004 to determine the incidence of dextromethorphan in suspected impaired drivers. A total of 108 samples were found to be positive for dextromethorphan during this time. Dextromethorphan concentrations in these cases ranged from less than 5 to 1800 ng/mL (mean 207 ng/mL), compared to an expected therapeutic concentration range of 0.5–5.9 ng/mL. Overall, the highest dextromethorphan concentrations observed were in males aged 16–20 years. Ninety-six percent of the specimens included in this study were also found to be positive for drugs other than dextromethorphan. A review of police and drug recognition expert reports from several of these cases showed that dextromethorphan-impaired drivers exhibited poor psychomotor performance on standardized field sobriety tests, horizontal gaze nystagmus, vertical gaze nystagmus, and overall signs of central nervous system depression.

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Subjects: Medical Toxicology ; Toxicology (Non-medical)

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