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December 20, 2011

For More Information, Contact:
Lisa Gardiner (916) 651-4011 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


SACRAMENTO – On January 1, California will become the first state in the nation to prohibit the sale of over-the-counter cold and cough medications containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to minors.
Senate Bill 514, authored by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), will require store clerks to check identification to ensure that no one under 18 purchases these medications, which are known to cause a potentially life-threatening high when consumed in high doses.

According to WebMD and the Consumer Healthcare Productions Association, one in ten 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% in the past ten years, making DXM abuse the most commonly reported type of abuse in this age group.

When taken as recommended, DXM is a safe and effective cough suppressant commonly found in over-the-counter cold and cough medications. Taken in higher doses, however, it produces intoxication, hallucinations, seizures, loss of motor control, and “out of body” sensations similar to PCP and LSD.

Adverse health effects such as seizures and liver failure can occur from ingesting the contents of just one package of over-the-counter cough medication. The dangers of DXM rise when it is mixed with alcohol and other drugs.

“The truth is that ingesting too much cough medicine can be as dangerous as abusing alcohol and other drugs,” Simitian said. “Until now, these drugs have been easy for young people to obtain. 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.”

Restricting the sale of DXM was a winning submission in Simitian’s 2004 “There Oughta Be a Law” contest from Wayne Benitez and Ron Lawrence, both with the Palo Alto Police Department at the time (Lawrence is now the Rocklin Police Chief). The legislation stalled in 2004, but Simitian successfully reintroduced the bill earlier this year.

“Back in 2004, when I first introduced this bill, Officers Benitez and Lawrence were on top of an emerging problem,” Simitian said. “Most of my colleagues had never heard of ‘robotripping’ or ‘skittling,’ and figured if they’d never heard of it, then it probably wasn’t a problem. Today the extent and seriousness of the problem is better understood.”

“With this law, we hope to see the abuse of DXM decrease around the state,” said Palo Alto Police Sgt. Wayne Benitez. “But as significant as this law is, it will work only if all of us – parents, teachers, and community leaders – work together to educate our children about the dangers and consequences of DXM abuse.”

“Many people are simply unaware of the dangers that lurk in their medicine cabinet and are lured into a false sense of security, believing all medicine is safe,” said Rocklin Police Chief Ron Lawrence. “This is a significant step forward in a comprehensive effort to curb DXM abuse. Educating parents and adolescents to the dangers of DXM is a big component of our efforts to get this law enacted.”
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.”

Senate Bill 514 was supported by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (the manufacturers of these products), the California Peace Officers Association, the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the California State Board of Pharmacy, among other groups.

A violation of the new law will be an infraction. The law provides an exception for sale to minors with a prescription.

Since 2004, DXM legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Congress and in half a dozen other states.

For more information on SB 514 visit