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August 18, 2011

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Melissa Figueroa (916) 651-4011 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


SACRAMENTO – The California State Legislature has approved Senate Bill 514, by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), which prohibits the sale of over the counter cold and cough medicines containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to minors.

“Hard to believe,” said Simitian, “but a significant number of kids are abusing over the counter medications for a nasty, life threatening high.  It’s cheap, legal and easy to buy. Prohibiting sale to minors will limit the opportunity for misuse, and hopefully,” said Simitian, “the law will also serve to alert parents to the potential for abuse.”

According to WebMD, and the Consumer Healthcare Products 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 used appropriately, DXM is a safe and effective ingredient in over-the-counter cold and cough medicines. Taken in large quantities, however, it produces intoxication and hallucinations. Since it can be purchased legally by minors, it is popular as a recreational drug, known by the street names DXM, robo, skittles, Triple C, Vitamin C, dex, and tussin.

“Since 2003, dextromethorphan has been the most commonly abused substance by teenagers reported to the California Poison Control System.  Over 80% of these calls involve teenagers being treated in a hospital for significant health effects,” said Ilene Anderson, Senior Toxicologist for the California Poison Control System, San Francisco Division. “It is important for parents, teachers and health care professionals to be aware of this issue in order to educate, and to prevent dangerous health 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. That year the bill stalled in the Legislature in the face of significant opposition. Simitian reintroduced the bill this year as one of two ‘recycled’ entries in the contest.

“It can be tough sometimes,” said Simitian, “when an idea is ahead of its time.  Back in 2004 Officers Benitez and Lawrence were on top of an emerging problem.  But 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 a successful end in sight, Chief Lawrence and I could not be more proud of the teamwork and collaboration shared between the Senator, his staff and the two of us,” said Palo Alto Police Sgt. Wayne Benitez.  “We started on this legislation years ago in hopes of making an impact on public safety. With a signature from Governor Brown Senate Bill 514 will do just that.”

“I am extremely pleased this bill is moving forward to the Governor for his consideration,” said Rocklin Police Chief Ron Lawrence.  “Passage of this bill will protect our children from using Dextromethorphan inappropriately by regulating sales only to responsible adults.” 

Since 2004, DXM legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Congress and in half a dozen other states; and product manufacturers with the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which opposed Simitian’s 2004 effort, are now on board. “The industry wholeheartedly supports efforts to prevent intentional misuse of medicines containing dextromethorphan,” said the Association in its letter of support for SB 514.

Senate Bill 514 is supported by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the California Peace Officers Association, the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the California State Board of Pharmacy among other groups.

A violation of SB 514 would be an infraction. The bill provides an exception for sale to minors with a prescription. For more information on SB 514 visit