Casey’s Bill to Help Parents Protect Children from Abusing Cough Syrup Gains Support House of Representatives

DXM Often Contained in Cough Syrup / The Bipartisan Legislation Limits Teens’ Access to Drug

Casey’s Bill to Help Parents Protect Children from Abusing Cough Syrup Gains Support House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that his bipartisan legislation to help parents protect their children from abusing dextromethorphan (DXM) has gained support in the House. This week, U.S. Representatives Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) and Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) introduced the Preventing Abuse of Cough Treatments (PACT) Act, which is a companion to the bill previously introduced by Senator Casey and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

 “The dangerous trend of abuse has put a strain on families, hospitals, and law enforcement,” Senator Casey said. “This legislation will help lessen that strain by preventing abuse of the drug while ensuring that adults, including parents, can still access the drug if they or their children have a legitimate need for it. I am pleased that Representatives Johnson and Braley support the PACT Act, and I’m hopeful we can move the legislation forward this year.” 

The active ingredient in many over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, dextromethorphan (DXM), is safe when taken as recommended, but 5 percent of teenagers report having intentionally taken large doses of DXM for effects that include hallucinations, confusion, blurred vision and loss of motor control. Senator Casey’s PACT Act will make it harder for teens to purchase the drug for this dangerous use, while still keeping cough medications accessible to those who use them for their intended purpose.

The PACT Act will:

  • Restrict the sale of dextromethorphan to those over the age of 18 (unless presenting a prescription or meeting emancipated status); and
  • Ensure that only legitimate entities registered with the FDA or comparable state agencies can purchase raw, unfinished (bulk) dextromethorphan.

Across Pennsylvania, emergency rooms have seen an uptick in overdoses of DXM. For example, the Sunbury Community Hospital recently reported a doubling of cases of DXM abuse in the past year.

Sunbury parent Bruce M. has experienced firsthand the impact that DXM abuse can have, as his own son has struggled with abusing the drug. “We have watched in horror, disbelief and emotional pain as he overdosed multiple times, praying with each overdose that this would be the last time, sitting for hours in an emergency room cubicle and learning to struggle through the aftermath,” Bruce said. “Until this threat can be removed from easy access, more and more teenagers will abuse an otherwise helpful product simply because it is easy to obtain.”

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