BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A new state law that goes into effect August 1, makes it illegal for teens to buy over the counter cough syrup without a prescription. Nearly every over the counter cough medicine contains something called dextromethorphan or DXM. DXM eases coughing by suppressing the part of the brain that creates the urge to cough.
Unfortunately, many teenagers are attempting to get high off of DXM, by overdosing on cough syrup. Some studies estimate that as many as one in 25 teens have abused cough syrup.
Overdosing can lead to vomiting, breathing problems, fast heart rate and even seizures. This can be especially dangerous if DXM is mixed with other drugs or alcohol.
"Those who do it, you drink an entire bottle or take an entire package of tablets, can really do themselves some harm and end up in the emergency room," explained Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of the Partnership for DrugFree.org.
The new law places restrictions on the over the counter medicine. Now anyone under the age of 18 cannot purchase medicine containing DXM without a prescription.
While abuse of over the counter cough syrup may not be as prevalent as other drug issues, supporters of the new law say this sends an important message that abuse of any drug, prescription or otherwise, is dangerous.
"It's just another example of a medication that when used appropriately, it could be a very helpful and safe medication, but like any over the counter product in all fields, if chosen to be used in an inappropriate manner can lead to dangerous consequences," added pediatrician Dr. Stephen Sanches.
Louisiana is the sixth state in the nation to pass a law restricting the sale of DXM.