When combined with other antidepressants, recent research has found dextromethorphan helps reduce depression symptoms.

Dextromethorphan is a type of medication called an antitussive, also known as a cough suppressant. Dextromethorphan is the active ingredient in many over-the-counter cough medications, such as Robitussin and Nyquil.

Although dextromethorphan is primarily a cough suppressant, some research has shown that it can also be a safe and effective treatment option for depression. In fact, a combination of dextromethorphan and bupropion was approved in 2022 to treat major depressive disorder after showing promising results in clinical trials.

Here’s what the research says about dextromethorphan for depression, including how to reach out to your doctor to discuss if this treatment option is available to you.

Dextromethorphan has only recently been approved for the treatment of depression.

Initial research suggests that it can be a safe and effective treatment for people living with depression.

However, combining dextromethorphan with other drugs seems to be even more effective.

In a 2020 study, researchers investigated the combination of dextromethorphan and memantine for people who were already receiving treatment for bipolar disorder.

According to their results, when added to current bipolar disorder treatments, dextromethorphan/memantine was able to significantly improve depressive symptom scores in participants.

In a phase 3 clinical trial in 2022, researchers explored the effectiveness of dextromethorphan/bupropion (AXS-05) for treating the symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD). Phase 3 clinical trials help researchers determine how effective and safe new medications are for treating certain conditions.

Results of the clinical trial found that dextromethorphan/bupropion was more effective than a placebo at reducing MDD symptoms in as little as the first week of treatment.

In addition, after 6 weeks of treatment, over 39% of participants were able to achieve remission of MDD ― versus only 17.3% in the placebo group.

One of the reasons that dextromethorphan may be effective for depression is because it affects the pathways related to glutamate, a neurotransmitter that may play a role in the development of depression.

When paired with bupropion (Wellbutrin), a common antidepressant, this specific medication combination shows promise for helping relieve depression.

Can dextromethorphan cause depression?

Some medications for depression, especially antidepressants, can initially cause side effects such as worsening depression or suicidal thoughts. Because of this, people who take dextromethorphan/bupropion may notice their depression get worse before it gets better.

However, there’s no current research suggesting that dextromethorphan by itself can cause depression in people without the condition.

Research from 2017 suggests that dextromethorphan taken at doses over 1,500 mg a day can lead to symptoms like delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia. But this research doesn’t necessarily suggest a link between dextromethorphan and new or worsening depression.

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Dextromethorphan is safe for most people, but like any medication, it can cause side effects.

Some of the most commonly reported side effects of dextromethorphan include:

In the phase 3 trial for dextromethorphan/bupropion, dizziness, nausea, headache, drowsiness, and dry mouth were the most common side effects reported.

Most health insurance plans and supplemental Medicare plans offer coverage for medications when they’re prescribed to treat specific health conditions, such as depression.

If you’re being treated for depression, there’s a chance that several antidepressants, including newer options like dextromethorphan/bupropion, are covered under your insurance plan. However, every insurance plan has different coverage rules, so consider contacting your insurance provider to learn more about what your plan covers.

Without insurance, newer medication options are often expensive. For Auvelity (one dextromethorphan-based medication), these costs can reach upward of $560 for a 30-day supply, according to some estimates.

Dextromethorphan is one of the most common ingredients in over-the-counter cold and flu medications. But in recent years, this medication has also been approved as a combination treatment option for depression, including major depressive disorder.

When used to treat depression, dextromethorphan is often combined with an antidepressant, such as bupropion. The combination of dextromethorphan and bupropion may effectively improve symptoms of depression.

If you live with depression or another mental health condition that causes symptoms of depression, dextromethorphan may be a long-term treatment option. Consider reaching out to your doctor to learn more about this medication and whether it’s available to you.