Texas signs age-restriction law to curb teen cough medicine abuse

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WASHINGTON — On May 17th, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law an age-18 requirement for the purchase of over-the-counter (O-T-C) medicines containing the cough suppressant dextromethorphan (DXM), an ingredient which is abused by some teenagers to get high. Texas is the 19thstate to prohibit the sale of O-T-C cough medicine to minors, joining other large states, including California, New York, and Florida.

Scott Melville

“For over a decade, O-T-C manufacturers have worked alongside anti-substance abuse advocates and lawmakers to curb teen cough medicine abuse,” said CHPA president and chief executive officer Scott Melville. “There is now strong evidence to suggest that age-restriction policies like the one signed into law by Governor Abbott, in combination with public education, have contributed to the very significant decline in DXM abuse rates in recent years. We are encouraged by the success we’ve seen to date and the ongoing momentum behind this issue. These types of efforts are critical while the nation addresses substance abuse as a major public health issue.”

DXM is a safe and effective ingredient found in more than 100 OTC medicines. While millions of Americans rely on these medicines to relieve cough and cold symptoms, some teens report taking 25 times or more of the recommended dose to get high. The 2018 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Monitoring the Future study reported that approximately one in 30 teens admits to abusing DXM to get high. When first reported in 2006, the number of teens abusing OTC cough medicines was nearly twice that amount but has declined significantly since then.

“Enacting age restrictions for products containing DXM will go a long way to reducing the misuse of this medication and we support the state’s decision to help protect kids and teens through this bill,” said Marcia Lee Taylor, executive vice president, external and government relations at Center on Addiction. “Generally, DXM is a substance of last resort for teens and it is chosen in large part because of its widespread availability. The more difficult it becomes for teens to obtain this product, the more we will be able to drive down its misuse and all of the negative consequences associated with it.”

“We thank State Representative Garnet Coleman and State Senator Kel Seliger for their strong leadership on this issue,” said Melville. “The more we do to restrict access to minors, while maintaining access to the millions of Americans who use these products responsibly, the better. It’s therefore our hope that the federal government moves forward with bipartisan nationwide age-restriction legislation introduced earlier this year by U.S. Representatives Doris Matsui and Bill Johnson.”

In addition to supporting age-restriction legislation, CHPA works to reduce teen DXM abuse by increasing parental and community awareness through its Stop Medicine Abuse campaign, working closely with organizations such as the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA).  CHPA also collaborates with Center on Addiction, which earlier this year merged with Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, to heighten teen perceptions of the risks of medicine abuse through the What is DXM campaign.



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