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New Jersey to Require Rx for OTC Cough Medicine for Minors

  • November 18, 2015
  • RPh on the Go

over the counter cough medicines for minorsNew Jersey Governor Chris Christie has enacted a law to ban the sale of over-the-counter cough medicine products that contain dextromethorphan (DXM) to patients under the age of 18 without a prescription. The law comes as a result of an alarming number of youth abusing the cough suppressant, which can be found in more than 120 over the counter cough and cold medications, including TheraFlu, Robitussin, and NyQuil.

The law goes into effect February 1, 2016, joining tobacco, pseudoephedrine, and alcohol in a limited access category of products. State assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini, who cosponsored the legislation says the ingredient is easily accessible, completely legal, and affordable, which makes it appealing to teenagers who often take more than the recommended dose in an attempt to get high.

Abusing cough medicines with this ingredient has been linked to a number of potentially serious side effects including: liver damage, cardiovascular damage, seizures, hallucinations, loss of motor control, and, in some situations, death. The 2014 National Institute on Drug Abuse’s annual Monitoring the Future survey indicates one in every 30 teens abuses over-the-counter cough medicines that contain DXM to get high.

New Jersey is not the first state to ban the sale of this medication to minors. Other states with similar laws include: Louisiana, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, Arizona, Kentucky, and New York. Laws enacted in these states have shown that the limiting access to DXM is a critical step in abuse prevention.

Even though these laws are in effect to protect youth in those states, more needs to be done to educate teens about the dangers of overusing and abusing over-the-counter medications. National surveys have determined half of teens don’t know how to properly use over-the-counter medications. Studies show this is at least in part a result of teenagers feeling like they can do anything, as well as gaps in knowledge.

Pharmacists can help raise awareness about the dangers of over-the-counter medications before bad habits are developed. Working alongside or independently of school interventions, pharmacists can help show teens not only how to use OTC medications correctly, but educate them on the dangers of misuse. If you are interested in working with your community to provide educational material for community leaders and parents, toolkits, brochures, and other materials are available online at StopMedicineAbuse.org.

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