House introduces bill to place age restriction on DXM purchase

WASHINGTON — Reps. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, and Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, last week introduced bipartisan legislation — the Preventing Abuse of Cough Medicine Treatment Act — that would help combat the abuse of dextromethorphan by placing an age restriction on its purchase. 

“Millions of Americans use these cold medicines responsibly to gain relief from coughs and colds," Braley said. "However, these medicines are available at every supermarket, drug store and convenience store in the country, giving teenagers unlimited access to purchase and abuse them. As a parent, I’m always focused on what we can do to protect Iowa’s children — and after researching this issue, it became clear that something needed to be done.”

"We must protect teens from abusing medicines like DXM, educate teens about the risks associated with this destructive behavior and deter teens from purchasing these medications with the intent to get high," Johnson added.

“This bill is one part of a larger, multipronged approach to prevent cough medicine abuse, along with educating parents and teens about the risks and social stigma associated with this behavior," noted Scott Melville, president and CEO for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. CHPA has long supported an age-18 restriction, as well as national educational efforts to curb teen OTC cough medicine abuse through its StopMedicineAbuse.org education campaign, which includes collaborations with The Partnership at Drugfree.org, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, the National Association of School Nurses and others.

The PACT Act ensures that adults will have reasonable access to these medicines, while at the same time preventing DXM abuse among teenagers. The legislation would restrict the sale of dextromethorphan to those under the age of 18 years, unless presented with a doctor’s prescription. Additionally, it would ensure that only legitimate entities registered with the FDA or comparable state agencies can purchase raw, unfinished (bulk) dextromethorphan.

In 2013 the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that roughly 1-in-20 teens in grades eight through 12 have abused cough medicine by taking excessive amounts to get “high.” Teens will often take up to 25 times more than the recommended dose.

The PACT Act is the House companion to the Senate legislation that was introduced by Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Ark. It’s being supported by a broad coalition of organizations, including the American Association of Poison Control Centers, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, California Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, CHPA, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium, National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, National Association of School Nurses, National Consumers League, Partnership at DrugFree.Org, Safe Kids Worldwide and Treatment Communities of America. 

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