California Cough Syrup Ban Goes Into Effect For Minors

In an effort to prevent kids from abusing a dangerous and trendy new drug, the state of California has banned the sale of cough syrup to minors starting at the beginning of this year.

SB 514 went into effect on January 1, prohibiting the sale of non-prescription drugs containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to persons under the age of 18.

DXM is a cough suppressant commonly found in over-the-counter cold medicines like Robitussin, NyQuil and Dimetapp. When either chugged in large quantities or processed into an extremely potent form, DMX can produce a euphoric, almost hallucinogenic, high often called "robotripping" or "dexing."

It can also lead to seizures, hallucinations, loss of motor control and enjoying listening to music that sounds like this.

"Ingesting too much cold medicine can be just as hazardous as drinking too much alcohol and it is cheap, easy and legal for children to obtain," wrote sponsor State Senator Joe Simitian in the bill's comments section. "The fact that DXM is legal and readily available over-the-counter suggests to most young people that these products are entirely safe. Indeed, that false sense of security has been identified as a contributing factor in abuse."

"It is the number one drug of choice for children under 18," Pediatrician Dr. Janesri De Silva told CBS 42, "[it's] more common than even marijuana because it is so easily accessible."

Simitian initially proposed the law in 2004 after one of his constituents pitched it as part of a "There Oughta Be A Law" contest; however, the measure never made it though the legislature. In the years since, abuse of the drug in the state has grown exponentially, which spurred lawmakers to take action.

The California Poison Control System reports that DXM abuse calls for children under age 17 have increased 850 percent in the past decade, making DXM abuse the most commonly reported type of abuse in this age group.

The bill was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown last spring but only went into effect this year--making California the first state in the nation to take such a strong stance against DXM.

If a store is caught selling a product containing DXM, they'll be subject to a $250 fine.

Even so, some are questioning the law's effectiveness and are urging the state to do more. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

[San Rafael parent Mark Dale, whose son has repeatedly overdosed on the drug] said the new law may help curb abuse but won't stop it, because teenagers often shoplift these cough medications, steal them from medicine cabinets and get them from other kids. Classifying the drug as a controlled substance, which would make it prescription-only, or requiring retailers to keep it behind the counter would be more effective.

Correction: The article originally stated that the processed form of DXM is called "sizzurp." While similar, and also prepared using cough syrup, "sizzurp" (or "purple drank") derives its high from the active ingredient promethazine and not dextromethorphan.