DXM Abuse Leads to New Cough Medicine Restrictions in Florida

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DXM Abuse Leads to New Cough Medicine Restrictions in Florida

By John Lavitt 04/13/16

Products like Robitussin and Nyquil will become restricted to minors in Florida starting next year.

Sales of Cough Medicine Containing DXM Will Soon Be Restricted In Florida
Photo via Shutterstock

In an effort to stop the abuse of drugs sold over-the-counter (OTC), Florida recently became the tenth state to restrict the sale of cough medicines containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to minors. 

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law on April 1, which won't go into effect until Jan. 1, 2017. After that date, anybody under the age of 18 will no longer be able to purchase products containing DXM in the state of Florida. Reports of teens getting high on cough medicines like Nyquil compelled state lawmakers to intervene. Unlike cough medicines containing promethazine and codeine (also known as the ingredients of "purple drank" or "lean"), products containing DXM are generally sold over-the-counter. 

According to the 2015 National Institute on Drug Abuse’s annual Monitoring the Future survey, one in 30 adolescents uses OTC cough medicine containing DXM to get high, helped by the fact that it is cheap and accessible. DXM is the active ingredient in cough suppressants like Coricidin, Nyquil, and Robitussin; taking multiple times the recommended dose results in a dissociative high.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there were six deaths related to DXM in 2014. In California, calls to the poison control center about teens misusing Coricidin jumped from 3% to 25% in recent years, according to Dr. Annie Arens, a Medical Toxicology fellow at UCSF. Nationwide, non-medical use of DXM results in approximately 6,000 emergency department visits annually, with adolescents accounting for almost 50% of those visits.

The effects of DXM can be divided into four stages, from mild stimulation to euphoria and hallucinations. The more intense stages of DXM intoxication result in a dissociative out-of-body state, and complete dissociation with unresponsiveness, and, in extreme cases, possible overdose.

Proponents of SB 938 lauded the new law. "Florida will join states across the country that have acknowledged that limiting teen access to DXM is an effective way to prevent abuse," said Scott Melville, president and CEO of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. "We are assured that this legislation will empower parents to prevent abuse among their children."

However, others are not so sure DXM abuse among Florida teens is as rampant as the law's proponents claim. "Based on our meetings, I know my SRO colleagues around the state are more concerned about flakka and heroin," Dale Tharp of the Florida Association of School Resource Officers told the Naples Daily News. "Nobody brought up anything about that cough syrup."  

Florida joins nine other states that have already passed laws banning the sale of products containing DXM to minors: California, New York, Arizona, Louisiana, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Washington and New Jersey.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles with his beautiful wife, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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