Journal of Advanced Practice Nursing

12 States Ban Sale of Cough Medicine To Minors


By Erin Schumaker

Children under the age of 18 in Florida are now banned from purchasing over-the-counter cough syrup that contains the active ingredient dextromethorphan, according to a new law that went into effect January 1.

Senate bill 938 also requires customers who look 25 years old or younger to show identification to purchase cough suppressants containing DXM, such as NyQuil and Robitussin.

The new law was put in place to prevent DXM misuse, or using the active ingredient in cough syrup to get high, what’s colloquially known as “robo-tripping.” DXM misuse can cause feelings of intoxication, euphoria and hallucinations.

“DXM has become popular among teenagers who want a cheap, easy high,” said Dr. Deborah Mulligan, director of the Institute for Child Health Policy at Nova Scotia University.

It also carries significant health risks and in rare cases, overdosing on DXM can cause death.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Audrey Robinson, a pharmacist in West Palm Beach, Florida. “It’s something that can be done here, where they can’t get access to it ― but parents still need to play a role at home to make sure it’s secured.”

According to the DEA, 12 percent of teens reported using over-the-counter cough medicine to get high at least once in his lifetime in 2011. A different ongoing study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that 5 percent of 8th, 10th and 12th-graders used cough syrup recreationally in the past year.

And although the percentage of 8th graders who used cough syrup recreationally increased slightly this year, from 1.6 percent in 2015 to 2.6 percent in 2016, that’s still lower than the peak of 4.2 percent that was first recorded in 2005.

(The problem also pales in comparison to the 58 percent of 8th, 10th and 12-graders who drank alcohol or the 35 percent of students who smoked pot during the NIH study period.)

Symptoms of a DXM overdose include slow or labored breathing, blueish colored fingernails and lips, blurred vision, coma, constipation, seizures, drowsiness, dizziness, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, raise body temperature and stomach spasm, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

In 2012, California became the first state to prohibit the sale of DXM to minors. Since then, 11 other states have signed similar laws, although Delaware’s doesn’t go into effect until June 2017.


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Editor-in Chief:
Kirsten Nicole

Editorial Staff:
Kirsten Nicole
Stan Kenyon
Robyn Bowman
Kimberly McNabb
Lisa Gordon
Stephanie Robinson

Kirsten Nicole
Stan Kenyon
Liz Di Bernardo
Cris Lobato
Elisa Howard
Susan Cramer