Congress Can Help Us in Our Mission to Prevent Teen Cough Medicine Abuse

By Becky Posted July 16, 2012 under Spreading Community Awareness

The Five Moms have two new allies in our fight to prevent cough medicine abuse – U.S. Senators Bob Casey, Jr. (D–PA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). These senators have introduced the PACT Act of 2012 to help combat teen cough medicine abuse by prohibiting the sale of over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines containing dextromethorphan (DXM) anyone under the age of 18.

While the cough suppressant DXM – found in about 100 different cough/cold medicines – is used responsibly by millions of Americans, about five percent of teens report abusing it by taking large amounts to get “high.” We know that teens primarily abuse cough medicine because it is readily accessible to them at local stores. So this recent effort on Capitol Hill to put in place a national age restriction would create a significant barrier to teens’ access to DXM-containing cough medicine, and is a major step forward in helping to reduce teen cough medicine abuse!

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 of 2012 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 all 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.

A small handful of states, counties and other municipalities scattered across the county have enacted purchase age restriction rules of cough medicine, but this new proposed national age-restriction will give all parents nationwide a better ability to control what medicines come into our house, and how we use them to keep healthy. Moms, dads and other responsible adults should have access to these medicines. But not our teens.

DXM abuse is preventable, and Sen. Casey’s proposed bill is just a part of preventing cough medicine abuse. It creates a barrier we need to restrict teens’ access to DXM-containing cough medicines. Talking to your teens is important in helping to prevent teen OTC medicine abuse. As a former D.A.R.E and school resource officer, I’ve spent countless hours working with teens in my community, and I know talking works. Teens who learn a lot about the risks of drugs from their parents are 50 percent less likely to use drugs. Having those conversations is a huge step to preventing cough medicine abuse in your home and community. For more information, guidance, and tips about talking with your teen, you can visit this page.

Parents, if you are not familiar with the signs of cough medicine abuse, get educated and put this on your radar screen. I want parents to know that it can be just as dangerous and prominent as other drugs and to recognize the signs of abuse. Abusing DXM to get “high” can cause teens to hallucinate, get confused, have blurred vision, vomit, and/or lose control of basic motor skills such as balance.

So safeguard your home medicine cabinet. Be aware of what medicines you have in there and track how quickly you are going through them. If you suspect your teen might be abusing, take the time to have an open, honest discussion about alcohol and drug use. There are many worries in today’s world that we can’t control. But this – cough medicine abuse – is something you can help protect your children from. And, thanks to this new legislation in Congress, there will hopefully soon be a national law restricting teen’s ability to purchase cough medicine and empowering parents to better control the medicines that come into our homes.