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Dextromethorphan extraction

What follows is the procedure and effects of extracting Dextromethorphan Hydrobromide from OTC cough syrup.



I had previously taken the liquid out of 20 Drixoral Cough caps and collected it in an ampule for quicker administration (the 20 gelcaps previously had upset my stomach and I don't like the time it takes for them to dissolve). I had 5 Cough Caps remaining and decided to use the fluid out of them in my extraction to "boost the octane" and compensate for the likely loss of product that would occur in the extraction. I mention this because it wasn't necessary to the procedure. Admittedly, I don't know what form of DXM is in the Cough Caps and how they could have affected the extraction, but I'm guessing not much.


The solutions of NaOH and water, as well as the overall mixture are very basic and can burn your skin. Wear latex gloves, wash your hands thoroughly many times, and try not to spill ;-)


The entire bottle of cough syrup was poured into a 500mL container. The additional DXM fluid from the Cough Caps was poured in. In another container a solution of 200mL water and approximately 2 grams of sodium hydroxide was prepared, then poured into the cough syrup. The mixture was stirred until a pinkish milky emulsion formed. At this time 50mL of methanol was added and stirred. The mixture was covered and let stand.

At :30 minutes after the addition of the methanol no settling of any solid product was observed. Another solution of 30mL water and 1 gram sodium hydroxide was added, followed by 30mL more methanol.

At 1:30 there were still no signs of settling. Dejected, I decided to put the mess away for the rest of the day.

The next day, after approximately 20 hours had elapsed, the container had a scum of whitish particles on its bottom, floating on the surface of the mixture, and suspended in the mixture. The coffee filter was folded to fit a funnel, which was put in the mouth of a large jar. Filtering the mixture took almost half an hour as the sediment quickly clogged the coffee filter. Fresh water was periodically used to wash the filter paper down and concentrate the sediment in the cone of the funnel. After all the mixture was filtered another 200mL of water was passed through the filter to wash the sediment and remove any remaining mixture. This is an important step! The DXM is in its base form and water can't hurt it, so the more water the safer.

The filter was opened up and a thimbleful of crystalline, fluffy wet off-white powder was it its center. This was allowed to dry for an hour. A razor blade was used to scrape it off the filter and the powder was loaded into a gelatin capsule.

Given its weight, the amount of product seemed consistent with 900mg or less of DXM (the amount going into the procedure).


I think I jumped the gun when nothing was observed after thirty minutes. Maybe the extra NaOH didn't hurt, but the added methanol probably just dissolved the DXM back into solution and made me wait longer. Oh well. Other brands of cough syrup contain alchohol, so they may not even need the methanol.

The filtered liquid has been sitting in a flask now for a week and practically no sediment has showed up.

Subjective effects:

Setting was a walk on easy hiking trails in a state park well known to me. Weekend, no demands on my time, etc. Nice day.

The capsule was taken at 1:30pm. No discernable effects were felt until 3:10, when an intense but quick episode of stomach pain occured. It lasted about five or ten minutes, and was gone.

At 3:30 effects came on rapidly. Felt cross-eyed, sudden lack of concern for what other hikers might think if they saw me. Tried out a exercise from one of the Castaneda/Don Juan books where you cross your eyes to merge two pebbles into one and then examine details, but I was too easily distracted to maintain it. I had been getting weary but now I was full of energy again. There was an immense satisfaction in sitting on the ground and examining plant structures. There was the familiar "time-dilation" effect where something thrown into the air seems to linger there endlessly. Occasional, casual insights (i.e. "this would be a great place to read a book!" or "mud is cool!") but nothing to earth (or me) shattering.

By 6:30 effects were noticably tapering. By 9:00 I felt almost totally "normal" except of that bizarre DXM "edge" one gets for the next 32 hours.


Well, the time delay after dosing was peculiar. Taken as a syryp I notice effects at about thirty minutes usually. Is it possible that the gelatin capsule could have been prevented from dissolving properly? it was taken with plenty of water.

The effects were within what I've come to expect from DXM, that is they had a "DXM feel" to them. They came on very swiftly (from initial effects to full in about 3 minutes!), though, which may be what other people are talking about when they say the free base has a stronger effect. There was a very "in the body" feeling to this, though. Also, once the experience was beginning to subside, I came down very quickly. Unfortunately I don't have access to a balance so I don't know exactly how much I took, but it had to be less than 900mg.

A comment on this procedure from DXM FAQ author William White:

Date: Sun, 28 Jan 1996 15:50:35 -0800
From: William White (

The listed DXM extraction process suggests using methanol as an extraction solvent. This isn't advisable due to the possibility of extracting NaOH along with the DXM; furthermore, DXM free base itself is only moderately soluble in methanol. A totally nonpolar solvent (e.g., naptha) is preferred, and can even be used with DXM plus guaifenesin syrups. [However, see this warning about naptha]

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