California Cough Medicine Law

California is the first state to address the problem of over-the-counter cough medicine abuse by teenagers and children. The days of easily catching a Robotussin buzz (if you are under 18) are over.

New California Cough Medicine Law to Curb Robotripping

A new law went into effect on January 1st which will ban the sale of powerful cough suppressants to those under the age of 18. The targeted medications contain an ingredient called dextromethorphan (known as DXM) which when consumed in large quantities produces intoxication, a euphoric high and hallucinations.

DXM is contained in many popular over-the-counter medicines including Robitussin-DM, Mucinex-DM, NyQuil and Coricidin. Among teenagers, taking larger than prescribed doses of these medicines in order to get high is known as robotripping, dexing or skittling.

Drug experts have called DXM a “poor man’s PCP” because of its hallucinogenic effects.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association reports that as many as 10% of U.S. teenagers are thought to have tried robotripping. DXM abuse is more common among this age group than cocaine, ecstasy, LSD or methamphetamine. According to the California Poison Control System, calls related to DXM abuse by children under the age of 17 have increase by 850% over the past decade.

Although DXM is safe when taken in recommended doses, in higher doses it can cause these side effects:

• Involuntary muscle movements
• Rapid heartbeat
• Seizures
• Liver damage
• Death (can occur in rare cases when DXM is used with other drugs)

The new California law, known as State Senate Bill 514, was unanimously passed by California lawmakers. Since 2004, laws related to the restriction of DXM sales have been introduced in the U.S. Congress and in several other states without success. Legislation has previously been opposed by manufacturers represented by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, but that organization is now in favor of restricting sales of DXM.

Some parents don’t believe the new law is strong enough. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the case of a San Rafael dad named Mark Dale whose 16-year-old son was rushed to the emergency room when he became disoriented and was unable to say speak. Dale was unaware of “robotripping” before his son confessed to abusing cough medicine with DXM. His son, who has tried twice to commit suicide by overdosing on DXM, is now in a residential treatment center.

Dale is concerned that kids can still shoplift cold medicines or steal them from home medicine cabinets. He would like to see DXM classified as a controlled substance and available only with a prescription, or required pharmacies to keep it behind the counter. A 2005 law requires pharmacies to keep decongestants that contain pseudoephedrine behind the counter because it is used to make methamphetamine.