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Casey Introduces Bill to Combat Dangerous Trend of Cough Syrup Abuse Among Teens

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that he has introduced legislation with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to prevent substance abuse among teenagers called the Preventing Abuse of Cough Treatments (PACT) Act of 2013. Every year, millions of Americans responsibly use over-the-counter cough and cold medicines containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to relieve their symptoms. However, when abused, DXM can cause serious illness and in some instances, death.

"By addressing teens' easy access to cough syrup, 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 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. There have been reported cases of abuse of the raw form of DXM which is extremely potent and sold in "bulk" to manufacturers. In 2005, five teenage boys from three different states died after ingesting DXM powder that they had bought in bulk from an online source. The PACT Act will make it harder for teens to purchase the drug for this dangerous use.

The PACT Act will:

Restrict the sale of dextromethorphan to those over the age of 18 (unless presenting a prescription); and

Ensure that only legitimate entities registered with the FDA or comparable state agencies can purchase raw, unfinished (bulk) dextromethorphan.

The bipartisan legislation has been endorsed by Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.), National Alliance for Hispanic Health, National Consumers League, Partnership at DrugFree.Org, Safe Kids Worldwide and the National Association of School Nurses.

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