Every year, millions of consumers use over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines to safely and effectively relieve coughs due to the common cold or flu. Some teenagers, however, abuse cough medicine by ingesting it in excessive amounts—sometimes as much as 25 to 50 times the recommended dose—to get “high” from dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in OTC cough medicines.
Dextromethorphan is a safe and effective ingredient found in nearly 100 OTC cough and cold medicines. First approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the 1950s, dextromethorphan is a non-narcotic cough suppressant that works by raising the coughing threshold in the brain; it has no pain relieving properties and is not physically addictive. When ingested in large amounts for an intentional high, however, its effects can include confusion, dizziness, double or blurred vision, slurred speech, loss of physical coordination, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, and disorientation.
CHPA has a full legislative agenda in place to complement its educational efforts and provide additional tools for combating this teen substance abuse behavior:
- CHPA supports prohibiting the sale of cough medicine to those under the age of 18.
- CHPA supports a prohibition of the sale of raw, unfinished dextromethorphan to ensure only entities registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration—such as scientists, researchers, and manufacturers—have access to this form of the ingredient.
- CHPA supports the designation of a yearly National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month to encourage communities to engage in fighting this type of teen substance abuse.
Preventing Abuse of Cough Treatments Act (PACT Act; S. 644)
On March 21, 2013, U.S. Senators Bob Casey, Jr. (D-Penn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) re-introduced legislation to restrict the sale of OTC medicines containing dextromethorphan to those individuals aged 18 or older. This legislation would also limit sales of the unfinished or “raw” form of the ingredient only to those entities registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This legislation is pending in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
California’s SB 514 – Law Prohibiting the Sale of OTC Cold and Cough Medicine Containing DXM to Minors
On August 31, 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 514 which prohibits the sale of OTC cough medicines containing dextromethorphan to minors. CHPA commends Governor Jerry Brown and the California legislature on passage and enactment of SB 514. Effective January 1, 2012, the law, authored by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), made California the first state to enact a sales restriction to minors.
Additional Programming in the Community
CHPA is working closely with the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, the Partnership at Drugfree.org, and D.A.R.E. America to raise awareness among parents and in communities about the dangers of OTC cough medicine abuse.
We encourage members of Congress to join us in our efforts to educate parents by including information on cough medicine abuse in any upcoming constituent newsletters. Please visit StopMedicineAbuse.org to learn more.