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March 19, 2004

For More Information, Contact:
Daryl Savage at (650)688-6384


PALO ALTO – A frightening and dangerous way for teens to get high has caught the attention of State Assemblyman Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto).  Known by names such as ‘robotripping’ or ‘tussing,’ this growing trend for kids is gaining popularity for those looking for an inexpensive and easy method to abuse drugs.

The culprit is dextromethorphan or DXM. It’s an ingredient found in over-the-counter cough medicine and cold remedies.  “Anyone can go to the store to buy this stuff. It’s an over-the-counter medicine.  And kids are not buying just one bottle or box, they’re buying several at a time,” Simitian said.

To counter this trend, Simitian has introduced legislation that should make that purchase more difficult. AB 1853, which will prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from buying non-prescription drugs containing DXM, will be addressed next week in the State Capitol.

“Abuse of DXM is dangerous, it can cause a heart attack, it can kill you.  This is all about saving young lives,” Simitian said.

A State toxicologist agreed. “DXM abuse in teenagers is a serious problem. We’ve seen a significant increase in the abuse and overdose of DXM-containing cold products in the last four years.  Many of these patients require hospital treatment,” said Dr. Ilene Anderson, a Clinical Pharmacist and Toxicologist with the California Poison Control System.

Two Palo Alto police officers were shocked after they witnessed a 14-year-old having a heart attack and another teen having a seizure after taking an overdose of Coricidin, an over-the-counter cough medicine that contains DXM. 

“We needed to do something – make people more aware this abuse was going on and that this is not just a passing fad, ” said Wayne Benitez, a Palo Alto Police Detective. “We’re now seeing it in middle schools.  We’re seeing it at an earlier age,” Benitez added.

Benitez and Palo Alto Police Lieutenant Ronald Lawrence submitted a proposal to Simitian’s annual “There Oughta Be a Law” contest, urging the Assemblyman to take steps to outlaw the non-prescription sale of drugs containing DXM to minors. Simitian selected the entry because “it was a problem that was serious, widespread, and growing.”

The DXM bill will come up for review at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 23, in the Assembly Health Committee at the State Capitol in Sacramento, where it is expected to meet stiff opposition from retailers and drug companies.