California on New Year’s Day becomes the first state to bar the sale of over-the-counter cold and cough medications containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to minors.
Senate Bill 514 by state Senator Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, requires store clerks to check ID so no one under 18 buys these medications, which cause a potentially life-threatening high when consumed in high doses. A violation of the new law will be an infraction, punishable only by a fine; the law provides an exception for sale to minors with a prescription.
DXM is known by the street names robo, skittles, Triple C, Vitamin C, dex, red paint, and tussin. Because abusers commonly use Robitussin to get high, the act of abusing is often called “robotripping” or “robodosing.”
Taken in high doses, DXM causes intoxication, hallucinations, seizures, loss of motor control, and “out of body” sensations similar to PCP and LSD. Simitian’s office says that, according to WebMD and the Consumer Healthcare Productions Association, one in 10 teenagers say they’ve used DXM to get high, making it more popular than LSD, cocaine, ecstasy or meth. The California Poison Control System reports that DXM abuse calls for children under age 17 have increased 850 percent in the past decade, making DXM abuse the most commonly reported type of abuse in this age group.
Seizures and liver failure can occur from drinking just one package of over-the-counter cough medication, and DXM becomes more dangerous when mixed with alcohol or other drugs.
“Until now, these drugs have been easy for young people to obtain,” Simitian said in a news release. “By putting age limitations on these drugs, we’re communicating to kids and their parents that, when used inappropriately, these are dangerous drugs with serious consequences.”
The idea from the law was a winner from Simitian’s 2004 “There Oughta Be a Law” contest, submitted by Wayne Benitez and Ron Lawrence, both with the Palo Alto Police Department at the time; Lawrence is now the Rocklin’s police chief. A similar bill had died in 2004. “Today the extent and seriousness of the problem is better understood,” Simitian said.