Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

By:  Joe Biden, Jr.
Date: Oct. 31, 2007
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. President, ``Robotripping,'' ingesting large amounts of cough suppressants containing a common over-the-counter ingredient called Dextromethorphan, or ``DXM,'' is a dangerous, potentially lethal, threat to our Nation's children. That is why today I am introducing the Dextromethorphan Abuse Reduction Act of 2007, which takes significant steps towards countering this alarming problem.

DXM is a cough suppressing ingredient found in many over-the-counter products. While DXM is safe at the recommended dosage, it can produce a hallucinogenic effect similar to that of PCP if ingested in abnormally high doses. Because many drugs containing DXM are legal and widely available over-the-counter, too many teens have the perception that they are not dangerous regardless of the amount ingested. Nothing could be further from the truth; overdosing on DXM can cause a rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, seizures, brain damage, elevated body temperatures, and even death.

Recent studies reveal troubling rates of DXM abuse. The number of reported cases in California has increased ten-fold since 1999 and experts believe that this mirrors national trends. Moreover, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America estimates that 2.4 million teens--1 in 10--got high on over-the-counter cough medicines in 2005. Children ages 9 to 17 are the fastest growing group of DXM abusers. Indeed, the latest Monitoring the Future survey revealed that nearly 7 percent--or one in about every 14--12th graders reported abusing cough or cold medicines to get high during the past year. Mr. President, these shocking numbers speak for themselves.

To be certain, this is not the first time we have seen the abuse of over-the-counter medications. As you will recall, we spent much of the 109th Congress debating how to address the dangers posed by pseudoephedrine, which can be used to manufacture methamphetamine. We passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, which took the important step of moving medications containing pseudoephedrine behind the counter and closely regulating their sales. While this move was controversial at the time among those who believed it imposed an unnecessary inconvenience on law-abiding Americans, it has worked: domestic manufacture of methamphetamine has been reduced dramatically and there is no indication that people who legitimately need medicines containing pseudoephedrine are not receiving them.

My bill takes two key steps to combat the abuse of medicines containing DXM. First, it regulates bulk DXM--the powder that has not been combined with any other ingredients--by placing it in Schedule V of the Controlled Substances Act. Cough medicine with codeine is also a Schedule V substance. This gives DEA the authority to monitor and control DXM in its unfinished form. While DXM-containing commercial end-products like Robitussin and Coricidin Cough and Cold will not be scheduled, the bill requires that any would-be purchaser of a DXM-containing product be 18 years of age, a move that many grocery stores and pharmacies have already voluntarily taken.

Second, and equally important in my view, the bill infuses substantial funding into efforts to raise public awareness about the problem of prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse, and it establishes coordinated efforts to educate teens and parents about medicine abuse. I have always said that tough enforcement efforts must be coupled with equally tough prevention and treatment measures. Prevention is a key component to solving the problem of rising medicine abuse, and my bill provides robust funding for educational television advertisements, community awareness and prevention programs, and targeted grants made available to local community coalitions to develop comprehensive strategies to reverse the rise in medicine abuse in a particular community.

Senators Grassley, Durbin, and Feinstein are original cosponsors of the legislation. The bill is also supported by a number of retail organizations including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, NACDS, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, CHPA, and the Food Marketing Institute, FMI. The Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America, CADCA, and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America also support the bill.

I would like to thank Senators Grassley, Feinstein, and Durbin for their support on this and many other important drug issues facing our country, and I hope all members of this body will join us in this effort and support this bill.

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