Review: Fiend by Peter Stenson

by Peter Stenson is an amazingly creative novel. In it, he manages not only to add energy to the popular zombie narrative with chilling details (like the eerie laughter they emit while hunting) but shows us a really engaging portrait of addiction. The entire work is an allegorical portrayal of the author’s inner life, but in my opinion it doesn’t feel heavy-handed. Instead, it feels like an honest portrayal of the verdict when an addict asked himself “What would happen if I was alone with my meth?”

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How do cough suppressants work?

The active ingredient in cough medicine, DMX or Dextromethorphan, is actually a psychoactive drug that, at high doses, causes dissociation, visual distortions, and loss of motor coordination. Though I don’t personally recommend it, some people chug cough syrup recreationally and call it “robo-tripping.”

This doesn’t seem to make sense: how can one chemical affect your sore throat and your brain? As it turns out, the purpose of the DMX in cough suppressants is to turn off the part of the brain that causes the coughing reaction to avoid irritating the throat more, but at higher doses ends up turning off other parts of the brain, too. Your “reptile brain” gets confused, causing disconnects in your experience of the mind/body relationship.


The DEA on Dextromethorphan