Washington state places age restriction on purchase of DXM

OLYMPIA, Wash. — In an effort to curb abuse of over-the-counter cold and cough medications by minors, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday signed legislation — House Bill 2163 — that places an age restriction on the purchase of dextromethorphan.

“This will deter teens who are purchasing cold medicines with the intent to abuse them," stated Washington Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, who introduced the legislation. "When I heard about this and began to research it I realized this was a growing problem and something needed to be done,” he said. “Rates of abuse of this substance have increased significantly over the last decade. Other states have already taken action and this legislation will help protect children in Washington state.”

“The makers of over-the-counter medicines want to acknowledge Gov. Inslee, Rep. Paul Harris and the Washington State legislature for taking a major step to address teen cough medicine abuse,” stated Scott Melville, president and CEO for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. “The passage of similar legislation in states across the country indicates that there is a growing support for this measure. We hope this action in Washington state will help generate further support for a national law.”

House Bill 2163 will prohibit the sale of non-prescription drugs containing dextromethorphan to a person under the age of 18 unless he or she is actively enrolled in the military or an emancipated minor. Selling DXM will be punishable by a written warning for the first offense and a class 1 civil infraction for subsequent offenses. The law will also require the trade association representing manufacturers of DXM products to annually supply retailers and the Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission with a list of all products that contain DXM.

Harris said the legislation will also create a level playing field to ensure that all retailers are adhering to the same process and rules. Some retail stores including Rite Aid and Walmart currently have polices that require identification for purchase of medications containing DXM, Harris noted.

The bill will take effect July 1, 2015, allowing retailers to implement measures to comply with the new law.

According to the 2013 National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Monitoring the Future Survey, approximately one in 25 teens abuses DXM to get high.

Upon enactment of this bill, Washington will join Virginia, California and New York as the fourth state to place an age-18 restriction on DXM sales.