Biden introduces legislation to curb dextromethorphan abuse

WASHINGTON Sen. Joseph Biden, Jr., D-Del., on Wednesday introduced the Dextromethorphan Abuse Reduction Act of 2007, legislation aimed to curb the rise in medicine abuse, including the misuse of cough and cold medicines containing dextromethorphan.

“It’s not just pot or LSD or cocaine we have to worry about, teens across the country are abusing over-the-counter cough-and-cold medicines to get high, sometimes with deadly consequences,” Biden stated.

The Dextromethorphan Abuse Reduction Act, co-sponsored by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., prohibits the unregulated sale of the bulk form of dextromethorphan; prohibits the sale of dextromethorphan-containing products to buyers under 18 years old—a move already voluntarily taken by several major retail stores, including many national food, drug and mass chains; and provides robust funding for prevention and educational programs to combat OTC and prescription drug abuse. “This legislation will attack this problem from all sides—education, enforcement and restricted access—and is the right move to protect our kids,” Biden said.

“The trend of teens looking to the medicine cabinet to get high with prescription and over-the-counter medicines is very troubling,” noted Linda Suydam, president of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. “The leading makers of over-the-counter cough medicines have been working to raise awareness about this problem and are pleased to see such strong leadership from the U.S. Senate on this issue.”

The bill is supported by the Food Marketing Institute, CHPA, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Partnership for a Drug-Free America and Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America.

Dextromethorphan produces hallucinogenic, PCP-like effects when taken in excessive quantities and its misuse causes a rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, seizures, brain damage, elevated body temperatures and sometimes death. Teens often refer to this practice as “Robotripping”—a term derived from the cough medicine Robitussin, which contains dextromethorphan.

According to Biden’s office, recent studies reveal the widespread nature of the problem. Children ages 9 to 17 are the fastest growing group of recreational users of dextromethorphan. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America estimates that 2.4 million teens, or 1 in 10, got high on OTC cough medicines in 2005.

“The abuse of dextromethorphan–especially by teenagers–is a serious concern, and our industry is committed to doing its part to combat this problem. We will continue working closely with Senator Biden and his colleagues as the Dextromethorphan Abuse Reduction Act moves forward in Congress,” NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson said in a statement on Thursday. “Many in our industry have already taken voluntary steps to restrict the sale of products containing dextromethorphan to underage teens. Through increased prevention, awareness and law enforcement, we can achieve the goal of stopping dextromethorphan abuse, while ensuring that safe and effective medicines valued by consumers remain readily available for legitimate use.”

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