July 12, 2012 —

By Christy Crandell

In 2012, a new law went into effect in my home state of California that prevents teens under the age of 18 from purchasing over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines containing dextromethorphan (DXM). Thanks to U.S. Sens. Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA) and Lisa Mukowski (R-AK), who recently introduced the PACT Act, similar restrictions to prevent teen OTC cough medicine abuse may soon be seen across the country. If passed, this nationwide legislation will prevent teenagers under the age of 18 from buying cough medicines containing DXM.

DXM is a safe and effective ingredient and is used by millions of Americans to help relieve coughs and colds. Teens who abuse DXM-containing medicines may take as much as 25 to 50 times the recommended dose – sometimes in combination with other drugs or alcohol – to get high. In fact, a national survey found that nearly five percent of teens reported abusing cough medicine to get high in the past year. Cough medicine abuse is no accident – teens abuse it because they can purchase it in stores or find it in medicine cabinets at home. Abusing cough medicines to get high is an extremely dangerous behavior. Enacting a federal age restriction and limiting teens’ access to these medicines will help prevent cough medicine abuse, while assuring that adults can still buy these medicines to safely and responsibly treat themselves and their families.

What can you do to help? Email or call your Congressional representatives and voice your support – ask your senators to co-sponsor the PACT Act and urge your House member to support a House version of the legislation, which has yet to be introduced. A bill being introduced in Congress is just the beginning – it needs to get passed and signed into law. Let’s unite our voices and inform Congress of the importance of teen access restriction in the fight against teen medicine abuse. Find contact info for your Congressional delegation here.

An age restriction is not going to solve this problem completely, but it’s a significant step in helping to prevent teen cough medicine abuse.

There’s more parents can do to reach their teens. It’s easy to make an impact just by:

The more we can do to prevent abuse – from national age restrictions to educating ourselves and our teens – the closer we are to stopping cough medicine abuse once and for all.