BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into a law a new measure that aims to fight over-the-counter drug abuse.
Starting in December, it will be illegal to sell over 100 OTC varieties of cough and cold medicine, including Robitussin, Delsym, Alka-Seltzer Plus, Coricidin and Sudafed, to anyone younger than 18. All contain the active ingredient dextromethorphan, or DXM.
Senator Mark Grisanti co-sponsored the new law.
"We're seeing an increase in young teenagers finding out that, basically, drinking a lot of cough syrup, grinding up the tablets, something along those lines, will produce hallucinogenic-type reactions," he explained.
Addiction counselors and pharmacists say, DXM is the latest over-the-counter drug kids are using to get high.
Barbara Madison of Parker Pharmacy in North Buffalo said, "It can be anywhere from 100 to 200 milligrams. And typically, most of these products contain five to 10 milligrams per teaspoonful or per capsule."
Extremely high doses of DXM can cause hallucinations and euphoria, but its nastier side effects include disorientation, nausea, sweating, high fever, vomiting, heart palpitations - even death.
Research indicates that young boys and men between the ages of 12 and 18 are the most frequent abusers of DXM.
"Even though it's low, five percent, the point is we don't want to see it grow any further," Sen. Grisanti said.
But will this new law work? Some people say, 'no,' because kids can just as easily find DXM in their own medicine cabinets at home.
Madison argued, "The kids abuse one product, and then that's either taken off the market or put behind the counter, so they find something else to abuse."
Sen. Grisanti countered, "This is something that parents can control. Look around. You're not being snoopy, if you're seeing what your kids have. Look under the beds, things along those lines."
Unlike medicines containing pseudoephedrine - the ingredient that can be used to cook meth - the cough syrups with DXM are not moving behind the counter. You'll just have to show your ID when you buy them.
DXM has been approved as safe by the Food and Drug Administration since the 1950s. It appears to have now become a problem as people who are hooked on narcotics or opiates are turn to other substances when they can't get those other drugs, and using over-the-counter medicines to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay.
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