Denenberg and Wink Propose Law Limiting Access to Potentially Addictive Cough Suppressant Chemical
Approved through committees today; goes on for full hearing on October 10
Nassau County Legislator Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) and Legislator Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn) proposed a law today limiting the sale of cough suppressants containing Dextromethorphan (DXM) to adults, due to the recent trend of DXM abuse among teenagers. Violators of the law would be subject to a $250 fine for the first offense, no less than $500 for a second offense and no more than $750 for a third and any subsequent violation.
“DXM abuse has become a very real health concern among kids and teens, and it’s time for steps to be taken to ensure their safety,” Denenberg said. “When the lives of our young people are at risk, it is our responsibility to do something about it.”
Similar to codeine, DXM is an effective cough suppressant when taken in proper dosage. If DXM is taken in much larger doses, however, it can cause euphoric and hallucinogenic reactions, more closely resembling drugs such as ketamine or PCP. Taken in excess, it can cause coma, brain damage, liver damage, respiratory distress and death. According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, there are more than 100 non-prescription medicines that contain DXM as an active ingredient. It appeals to teenagers because it is inexpensive and easy to get.A Coricidin package of 24 tablets cost $6.99 at Walgreens. Slang terms for DXM include Dex, Robo, Skittles, Syrup, Triple-C, and Tussin.
"The abuse of DXM has flown under the radar for too long, and children are losing their lives because of it,” Wink said. “This proposal will place effective restrictions on a product whose overuse is ruining lives across the country.”
A study done by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America estimated that 2.4 million teenagers, roughly 1 in 10, got high using cough medicine in 2005.In 2006 there were 76 cases of teens abusing DXM in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties, nearly twice as many as in 2000 as reported by a toxicologist at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola.
“Preventing teen cough medicine abuse, particularly when abused with alcohol can cause serious danger,” said Jack Jerdan, Executive Director of the Long Island Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (LICADD). “This very important piece of legislation may in fact save many of our children.”
“This Department is concerned about the use of OTC drugs because the initiation of these so-called ‘safe’ drugs produce a sense of being intoxicated which can eventually lead to use of other drugs and alcohol that produce this same sense of euphoria and relaxation, acting as a ‘gateway drug,’” said Arlene Sanchez, Commissioner of the Nassau County Department of Mental Health. “Banning the purchase of these OTC drugs by youth under the age of 18 years will keep ‘Robotripping’ under control.Research has shown that whatever we can do to prevent the initiation of any drug will prevent long term addiction.When laws are in place, they can act as a deterrent, along with research based prevention programs and close parental involvement.”
LICADD encourages parents to educate themselves about cough medicine abuse, learn to recognize the signs of abuse, and communicate with their children about the dangers of DXM. Parents are also urged to safeguard medications in their home away from kids and teenagers.