4 Insane Details of Cough Syrup Addiction (An Inside Look)

#2. The Projectile Vomit Problem

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Fun fact: Getting high on dextromethorphan too soon after eating will cause the contents of your stomach to leave your mouth, literally, in the same way Paul Rudd puked all over Jon Favreau in I Love You, Man. If you've never seen that movie, just imagine how much vomit you would like to spew on Jon Favreau and how hard you would like it to hit him in the face. It was exactly like that. And it happened to me all the goddamn time.

See, one of the major challenges of being high all the time and keeping it a secret is that the people around you don't realize they should be tailoring their daily activities to fall in line with how you party. My downfall during those years, at least in that respect, was that I'd often have to couple running errands with getting high. You can't just keep a large stockpile of available cough syrup around the house without raising a few eyebrows. So that meant, damn near any time I left the house, I was also going to stop at Walgreens.

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I'm open to talk endorsement deals, get at me.

I'd go to the same one every time because it was close to my apartment, and unlike some of the more level-headed substance abusers I know, I have absolutely no sense of shame when it comes to the cashiers of the world knowing I have a problem. They have a problem, too. Namely, they're cashiers. Unless you're still in school (in which case I care even less), that's not a path you head down because you have a formidable amount of solid life choices under your belt. Glass houses, motherfuckers.

Also, great album, motherfuckers.

Anyway, several of those trips would revolve around getting food for the household to enjoy. You can't just return home with a sack of tacos and not eat at least one. You eat at least one just to know if you're even hungry for tacos. Any deviation from that is a universally recognized sign that something is amiss. So, if my drug trips coincided with food trips, I'd have to eat and then wait for the ideal moment to sneak away and down two loud-as-shit-when-you-open-them bottles of gelcaps (I preferred those because they have no taste and taking pills is a way more adult way to get high). And by "ideal" I mean literally any moment. My only hope was that said moment did not happen too soon after I ate. On several occasions, that did not turn out to be the case.

What was I going to do, though? Just not get high? Certainly not back then, so more often than not I'd risk it and just hope I'd reach a bathroom in time to vomit, ideally without anyone hearing me. I often failed miserably. If anyone witnessed or heard me vomiting, I'd usually blame the food. People never questioned it, which blows my mind. Who gets food poisoning on a monthly basis, barring people who regularly eat at KFC? The odds of that have to be on par with getting struck by lightning.

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Or finishing a Double Down chicken sandwich without having a stroke.

Still, I got off time and time again without having to give a better explanation.

In one particularly gruesome incident, as my girlfriend at the time sat about 10 feet away in the living room, I made it inside the bathroom and shut the door just in time to paint most of the toilet and the wall behind it with the barely digested remains of a McRib Extra Value Meal. Up until this point, I'd always made it at least mostly into the bowl. The lid wasn't even open this time. There was puke everywhere, and I'd blamed my mad dash to the restroom on ... something else. On the bright side, that process buys a person a good 10 minutes or so on anyone's clock before they go on Elvis alert. Effectively cleaning up that much puke was not easy, but I did a bang up job and got out of there without incident.

Well, almost without incident. As is custom, I made a quick "Don't go in there!" announcement to lighten the uniquely ugly mood that falls over us all when we're within earshot of someone taking a particularly rowdy dump.

Her reply? "Yeah, it smells like you puked." Indeed it did.

#1. Plateau Sigma

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Let's say you smoke weed, because you probably do and I'll like you more if I think you do anyway. If you smoke a joint and then smoke another one three hours later and then repeat that process throughout the day, the only thing that's going to happen is that you'll just sort of keep getting high again in the same way each time. It wears off, you smoke more.

I got to the point where, at least on especially celebratory days like holidays and such, I'd take cough syrup the same way. What I didn't realize at the time is that cough syrup doesn't work like that. At all. See, the different highs associated with DXM are broken into four different categories, or "plateaus," as people who drink too much cough syrup like to call them. For example, here's a rundown of the horrors that await a person who reaches the "fourth plateau" as listed on the entire damn Wikipedia page dedicated to the recreational use of cough syrup:

"At 15.0 mg/kg or more, an individual may experience a perceived loss of contact and control with their own body, changes in visual perception, out-of-body experiences, perceptions of contact with 'superior' beings, other miscellaneous delusions, lack of movement or desire to move, rapid heart rate, complete blindness, increased hearing, and intensification of third plateau effects."

Well hello, complete blindness, I'm glad I never met you when I was getting high!

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This one gets it.

That's probably because, for a person of my size (at the time), it would have taken a minimum of 70 pills to reach that kind of high and, frankly, that's not the kind of high I want. Now read this:

"Plateau Sigma: 2.5-7.5 mg/kg every three hours for 9-12 hours; occurs by prolonging dosage. Plateau sigma is marked by the presence of psychosis with visual and auditory hallucinations. Users have reported that inclinations manifest as auditory hallucinations; rather than simply feeling tired and sitting down, a user might hear a voice saying, 'sit down now, you're tired,' and feel inclined to obey. White says that of all the reports of Plateau Sigma experiences he received, over half were described as unpleasant."

That's a description of the fifth terrifying plateau in the DXM experience. Check out that dosage. You'll note that it's far less than what a person would need to reach the already terrifying fourth plateau. In fact, all you need to do is the exact same thing I've done a whole bunch of fucking times, which is take a regular dose several times throughout the day at regular intervals. It will surprise no one to know that addicts don't always research their poisons with the proper level of vigor. I'm no different, and until I started researching this article, I had no idea what I was setting myself up for by taking that particular drug in that particular way.

You may recall that my first column for Cracked was this gem about the dangers of smoking synthetic weed. About a month after it was published, Demi Moore suffered a seizure from doing that exact thing. Let this be a cautionary tale to anyone who doesn't read my shit religiously.

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Don't let this be you.

Anyway, in that article, I regaled you all with a tale of the time I got so high, I thought I'd died and gone to hell and, even worse, my cats were determined to keep me there. I blamed the fake weed mostly, and just casually mention as if it's not the fifth or sixth craziest single thing I've ever told a person that I also took 40 Robitussin pills. That was a modest estimate. Over the course of that day, I probably took 120 pills, minimum. The gas station weed didn't help, but it's pretty clear to me now that I was fucking around in a way that I really should not have been.

And it happened a lot. I'd just be sitting there watching television and suddenly, as if a switch had been flipped, I'd be overcome with a sense of outright doom. Not terror, fright, panic, or anything like that. Near the end of my run with cough syrup, I would routinely feel doomed. When was the last time you felt doom? It's not fun.

One incident that stands out in particular is when, after a solid day of taking the same drugs in that exact same super dangerous way, I was watching an episode of Parks and Recreation. One of the storylines involved a Native American curse that fell upon a harvest festival the town was throwing. I was so high when I watched this episode that, and I promise you this is not a lie, I was sure that curse was going to stay with me if they didn't get it resolved during that episode.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment
Just say Knope.

That kind of stuff sounds hilarious to the person reading about it, and even to me in retrospect. Television curses? Cats dooming you to hell? That's comedy that writes itself.

Here's the thing, though: Not everyone can handle being that high. And let me assure you, if you suddenly view your cats and the people on television as participants in a battle for your soul, you are exactly that high. I have enough experience with drugs and the mental wherewithal that, eventually, I realize I'm just high and need to relax. It's a dangerous head space to play around in, though. Replace me with someone who's already prone to violence or mental breaks in that situation and ask yourself how well, for example, the cats would fare in that first story. Put enough drugs in a crazy person, and they will act on the plans I believed my adorable little kitties had hatched on me that night. If you're ever wondering how people wig out on drugs and start biting faces or eating roommates, there you go. Fortunately, I'm enough notches above full-on mentally ill that I knew not to kill my cats. Not everyone gets off that easy.

I told you it wasn't funny.

Adam hosts a podcast called Unpopular Opinion that you should check out right here. You should also be his friend on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

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