Podcast 539:  Coricidin Abuse - The Emergency Medical Minute

Podcast 539:  Coricidin Abuse

Contributor:  Rachel Beham, PharmD

Educational Pearls:

  • Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold (dextromethorphan and chlorpheniramine) is one of the more commonly abused over-the-counter medications
  • Dextromethorphan, binds to multiple receptors, particularly at high doses
    • Opioid receptors, causing respiratory depression, CNS depression
    • NMDA receptors, causing agitation and hallucinations
    • Serotonin-reuptake inhibition, which may lead to serotonin syndrome, especially when combined with other agents
  • Dextromethorphan also contains bromide, which when chronically abused can lead to bromism (behavioral changes, hallucinations, weight loss, and neurologic changes)
  • Chlorpheniramine is an antihistamine and can cause anticholinergic effects in overdose, such agitation, hyperthermia, and hallucinations
  • Acute treatment of Coricidin abuse is mostly supportive, which may include benzodiazepines, naloxone, dialysis, sodium bicarbonate, and physostigmine depending on the predominate toxidrome and symptoms present


Ritter D, Ouellette L, Sheets JD, Riley B, Judge B, Cook A, Houseman J, Jones JS. “Robo-tripping”: Dextromethorphan toxicity and abuse. Am J Emerg Med. 2019 Nov 17. pii: S0735-6757(19)30655-2. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2019.10.001.

Bryner JK, Wang UK, Hui JW, Bedodo M, MacDougall C, Anderson IB. Dextromethorphan abuse in adolescence: an increasing trend: 1999-2004. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160(12):1217–1222. doi:10.1001/archpedi.160.12.1217

Monks S, Yen M, Myers J. Bromism: An overlooked and elusive toxidrome from chronic dextromethorphan abuse. Am J Emerg Med. 2019 Nov 15:158491. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2019.158491.

Summarized by Will Dewispelaere, MS4 | Edited by Erik Verzemnieks, MD

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