Legislation aimed at stopping cough medicine abuse

Published: Friday, July 20 2012 8:38 a.m. MDT

Legislation was introduced recently that would limit the access of over-the-counter cough medicine to teens.

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The abuse of cough medicine among teens has garnered national attention with the introduction of legislation that would address the growing problems of teens easily using the medicine to get high.

"U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced new bipartisan legislation to prevent the abuse of cough syrup to get high, a particularly worrisome trend among American teens," reports The Partnership at Drugfree.org. "Senator Casey’s Prevent Abuse of Cough Treatments (PACT) Act will make it harder for teens to purchase the drug for this dangerous use, while still keeping cough medications accessible to those who use them for their intended purpose."

"Most cough medicines including syrup, tablet, and gel cap forms, contain the cough suppressant dextromethorphan (DXM)," according to an article, “Cough Medicine Abuse on the Rise.” "It's safe in small doses, but when taken in large doses (sometimes as much as 25 to 50 times the recommended amount) it can result in a 'high' feeling ranging from disorientation and dizziness to loss of motor skills and hallucinatory experiences."

A 2011 survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that “approximately 5 percent of teens in grades 8-12 report abusing DXM-containing medicines by ingesting large amounts to get high," according to a Yahoo News article.

"This legislation powerfully complements our ongoing educational initiatives to raise awareness about this troubling behavior," said Scott M. Mellville, CEO and President of Consumer Healthcare Products Association. "It will give parents an additional tool to prevent abuse, while ensuring access for the millions of adults and families who responsibly use products containing DXM to relieve cough symptoms."

Many teens take the abuse of the medicine too lightly, experts say, and do not have proper knowledge or awareness about the potential risks.

"The key thing that appears to be happening is that kids believe they can get high without the health risk, because what they are taking is 'medicine,'" said Tom Hedrick, founder of Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

He stresses proper education for parents about the recreational drugs. “There's a blind spot because what kids are getting high on now didn't exist when their parents were kids,” said Hedrick.

Steve Pasierb, CEO and President of Partnership at Drugfree.org, also stresses the importance of awareness and safety.

"By taking a holistic, integrated approach, one that includes the importance of parent-to-teen communication about medicine abuse, stresses safeguarding medicines at home, limits children’s access at retail and employs innovative teen intervention strategies online, we can help curb teen abuse of over-the-counter cough medicine,” said Pasierb.

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