U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today introduced bipartisan legislation to prevent the abuse of cough syrup to get high, a particularly worrisome trend among teens.
The active ingredient in many over-the-counter cough and cold medicines dextromethorphan (DXM) is safe when taken as recommended, but 5 percent of teenagers report having intentionally taken large doses of DXM for effects that include hallucinations, confusion, blurred vision and loss of motor control. Senator Casey's Prevent Abuse of Cough Treatments (PACT) Act will make it harder for teens to purchase the drug for this dangerous use, while still keeping cough medications accessible to those who use them for their intended purpose.
"By addressing easy access to purchasing cough syrup for teens, the main cause of the harmful trend of its abuse, my bill will help keep our children safe and lessen the strain cough syrup abuse has put on families, hospitals and law enforcement," said Senator Casey. "My common-sense legislation will prevent kids from purchasing a drug that has dangerous consequences when abused to get high, while also ensuring it is available to those with a legitimate need for it."
The PACT Act will:
Restrict the sale of dextromethorphan to those over the age of 18 (unless presenting a prescription or meeting emancipated status); and
Ensure that only legitimate entities registered with the FDA or comparable state agencies can purchase raw, unfinished (bulk) dextromethorphan.
Across Pennsylvania, emergency rooms have seen an uptick in overdoses of DXM. For example, the Sunbury Community Hospital recently reported a doubling of cases of DXM abuse in the past year.
Sunbury parent Bruce M. has experienced firsthand the impact that DXM abuse can have, as his own son has struggled with abusing the drug. "We have watched in horror, disbelief and emotional pain as he overdosed multiple times, praying with each overdose that this would be the last time, sitting for hours in an emergency room cubicle and learning to struggle through the aftermath," Bruce said. "Until this threat can be removed from easy access, more and more teenagers will abuse an otherwise helpful product simply because it is easy to obtain."
Abuse of DXM has also put a strain on local law enforcement. "This is a serious problem that is being ignored; a problem that is creating long-term, negative effects for our youth, both from a legal and health standpoint; and it is creating challenges for law-enforcement in areas where limited resources exist and could be better used elsewhere," said Sunbury Chief of Police Stephen Mazzeo.
"Senator Casey's bill could really help communities like ours get better control of this problem and ensure better safety for our kids," Mazzeo said.
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) joined Senator Casey in introducing the PACT Act.