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Getting Teens Off a Legal Drug

June 3, 2004



Drug counselors and poison-control centers are reporting higher rates of teen abuse of legal, nonprescription medications - a warning to adults to be more vigilant. In particular, various types of cough suppressants containing dextromethorphan (DXM) have been found especially appealing to many teens because they provide an easily accessible and low-cost "high."

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Some parent groups have rightly called for retail outlets to voluntarily put these products behind the counter, and some stores have complied. That's no easy task, since more than 250 such products contain DXM.

Already, three states (California, New York, and New Jersey) have introduced legislation to restrict the sale of products containing DXM to minors. More states should follow their lead.

To its credit, the Consumer Health Care Products Association, a trade association representing makers of over-the-counter drugs, has paid for a brochure from the nonprofit Partnership for a Drug-Free America warning parents of the dangers of DXM. And the partnership has taken up a needed study to better determine the prevalence of DXM abuse.

In Sweden, DXM is available only by prescription. Until more states restrict sales of DXM, it is better off behind the counter, where adults can more closely supervise it.

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