September 14th, 2010
06:45 PM ET

FDA panel: Cough and cold meds should remain over the counter

Cough and cold medicines that contain dextromethorphan should remain available without prescription, a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee recommended Tuesday.

Dextromethorphan or DXM  is found in many over-the-counter cough suppressant products, such as NyQuil, Robitussin and Tylenol Cold Tablets.  When taken in large doses and when mixed with other drugs it can create a state of euphoria.

The Drug Enforcement Administration asked the FDA, back in 2007, to look at how the government could curb abuse of DXM, because a growing number of teenagers were using it to get high. In rare cases, death did occur.

The FDA advisory panel recognized that abuse was a concern in adolescents, but decided that dextromethorphan did not pose enough of a threat to the general public health.  It voted 15 to 9 against having DXM fall under the Controlled Substance Act, which would have allowed states to consider it for prescription-only status.

The FDA is not bound by the recommendations of its advisory committees, but it usually follows their guidance.

The FDA committee did discuss the possibility of putting products with DXM  behind drug store counters or instituting an age requirement for purchases.  It also suggested strengthening public awareness of the effects of DXM abuse, so parents can help their children understand the dangers.

40 million Americans safely use cough and cold products with DXM,  according to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) which represents manufacturers.

Making these medications available only by prescription would penalize patients by making the products more difficult to obtain, the CHPA testified.  It would put more stress on the heath care system by adding four million more doctor visits per year by patients seeking prescriptions, the Association said.

soundoff (133 Responses)
  1. steve

    Is this really news?

    September 15, 2010 at 00:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Anti Waste Spending

    @veteran77 – Sorry you have been brain washed by a country looking to defend misguided ideals and power grabs the world over for over half a century.

    The fact of the matter is, a few thousand guys in caves don't threaten my freedom of speech. You do, Bush did, and all fatsean is saying is, at least weed won't kill him and in addition to that we should stop spending the trillion dollars a year we don't have on a silly war that had little purpose for America that is further bankrupting us.

    I am not a coward for bowing out of a logical peaceful life to go ruin millions of people less fortunate than me.

    Do drugs, open your eyes to the world around you. The best artists, philosophers, and thinkers around the world have alwys picked a poison.

    DXM could be yours.

    September 15, 2010 at 00:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Renee Ramirez

    This needs to have an age limit, my son almost overdosed on it with DMX, soda and other medications calling it sizzurp. Most wrappers drink it.

    September 15, 2010 at 00:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Apparatus

      Sizzurp is codeine and promethazine, not DXM. Neither codeine nor promethazine are OTC, either.

      September 15, 2010 at 01:02 | Report abuse |
    • Name2

      If your son wanted to get high, I think he would have obtained the medication regardless of a purchasing age-limit. I hope he's in therapy and you're spending more time with him, finding out why he was so unhappy or unbalanced and helping him. Spend regular time with him one-on-one and let him open up to you about who he is and what he needs.

      September 15, 2010 at 07:53 | Report abuse |
  4. Chris L.

    This is just like what they did with pseudo-ephedrine. There have actually been studies to suggest that a placebo works better than the new ingredient that they put in OVC Sudafed. Now some people actually want to do that with cough syrup as well? I hate feeling like a criminal every time I need to buy something from the pharmacy; the new stuff doesn't work, so I literally HAVE to sign that book and present my driver's license when I need to stop a runny nose. It's getting a bit ridiculous.

    Kids are going to find ways to get high. We as adults cannot stop that. If we take one thing away, they will find another, and another, and another, ad infinitum. Stop punishing the entire population because of some high schoolers and let the parents get a handle on their kids!

    September 15, 2010 at 01:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ituri

      Quite right, thats one of the only brand-types that helps my symptoms when ill. Other than that NyQuil is the only thing that helps,but even the daytime NQ puts me to sleep. Sudafed doesn't! But now I have to "sign the book," as you said, and have my purchases "checked" before taking home a SINGLE box. Wasn't the reason for off-countering it because young people were buyiing places out and making meth with it? How much meth could I possibly make with ONE box?

      September 15, 2010 at 02:19 | Report abuse |
  5. Larry

    All you have to do is make a requirement that you be at least 21 years of age to buy DXM, and it would curb about 75% or more of the abuse. Most of the people who misuse it are under 20. It doesn't fix the problem, but it's a good compromise.

    September 15, 2010 at 02:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Ituri

    So because of some stupid kids... who would likely snuff dog dander if they thought it could get them high... the FDA was considering taking a valuable and important malady medicine off the counter? Are they JOKING with that nonsense? Kids will get high off dandelions if you tell them it works. Stop punishing normal people because kids are stupid. You can't stop stupid. But you CAN start banning drugs ADULTS find necessary. If I have a cold and the ONLY medicine that ever works for me is suddenly not available any longer (and I'm not the only one I know of that only responds to certain kinds for certain maladies), WTF am I suppose to do? Suffer? Because "oh, the kids might get a high!" Geez...

    September 15, 2010 at 02:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Krissy

    Veteran77- Thank you for your service!

    September 15, 2010 at 02:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. lexi

    I graduated high school last year and I have never done drugs nor abuse cough med,and do u know why?...BC my mom and dad taught me not to be stupid, they taught me right and wrong, my parents took responsibility for me. I'm sorry for the ones that lost kids but let's be truthful, pointing the finger and putting the blame on the lack of restrictions on OTC meds does not get you off the hook for failing as a parent, because u did. Don't expect others to raise your kids, its no one job or duty to tell them whats right and wrong...its yours.I have friends who smoke weed and so other stuff and they ask me and guess what...I say no. Guess parents should teach their kids that.My little sister is a sophmore and I worry about her but I know its my parents job not strangers job to make sure she keeps out of trouble...so parents stop telling me stories about the kid u have messed up on dx, I don't feel sorry for you, it just reminds me how lucky I am for my mom and dad who never gabe up on me and who weren't afraid to discipline. If u can't raise kids don't have 'em...ull be doing us a favor by not producing 'tards. Thanks a Bunch! Bye.

    September 15, 2010 at 03:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Name2

      Some parents teach their children well, but the children give in to peer pressure. My parents always made it clear that doing drugs was a bad idea, but guess what? I was a depressed lonely teenager who, to "fit in," smoked weed and drank a few times. I regret it now and wish I hadn't, but I can't blame my parents. Teens make their own choices sometimes. Granted, I do wish my parents had spent more time with me, but I probably still would have tried what I tried to fit in with the people I wanted to be friends with. It was a stupid decision, but I am not not a stupid person. There's no need to call names. Also, although you stay away from drugs, I'm sure you've done things you shouldn't have (maybe treated someone really badly, made fun of other "kids," stole something once?) No one is perfect, and I think blaming parents for their childrens' deaths is wrong. There is no blame in tragedy. Learn some compassion, please.

      September 15, 2010 at 08:05 | Report abuse |
  9. James Townsend

    DXM is some very powerful stuff. It might be a good idea to regulate it. It can be found in powder form on the streets. Comparing it to pot or alcohol is ridiculous. It is in a completely different category. If any of you commenting on this have ever had the DXM experience, I guarantee you would agree that keeping it behind the counter and possibly out of the ingredients is a good idea.

    September 15, 2010 at 04:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. hamburger skyscraper

    what happened 2 kids just smoking a little crack or snorting heroin now they r using dxm to get high how stupid

    September 15, 2010 at 06:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. garbage

    Why not at least have someone sign for it at the counter? There are quite a few people both old and young who suffer from being addicted to this drug. Unless you've seen the damage it causes first hand, you really have no idea what your talking about!

    September 15, 2010 at 07:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Cavendish

    Next thing we know the OWNERS will be scripting every single minute of our lives!
    What surprises me the most about our lives being so controled by government is that 3/4 of the people that live
    in this country are to really to *stupid* to see what is happening.
    Yet I bet they will be the first ones to scream their heads off when everyone is required to put cameras, and mics
    in their homes for 24/7 monitoring. What is really funny.... by then it will be to late!

    September 15, 2010 at 08:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. rightwingers are stupid

    this article is further proof that rightwingers are stupid and fail basic reading comprehension.

    They are NOT making it prescription req. Not only that but the original suggestion to consider it was made under the Bush Admin. Morons.

    September 15, 2010 at 08:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Chris

    Went to mexico for my honeymoon. We bought all sorts of antibiotics and other stuff that you can only get by prescription here. In fact every medication I take is available over the counter there. I purchased some and have taken them. They did their job with no side effects despite the fact they aren't approved by the FDA. This is just another example of how America is not the free country we make it out to be. We are more oppresed than many who we criticize for being oppresive.

    September 15, 2010 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Name93

    So....because some parents are idiots and are unable/unwilling to parent their teenagers and their teenagers use an over the counter drug in a dangerous/stupid way the FDA actually considering banning it or placing it behind the counter? That's stupid. Last time I went to buy cough medicine they demanded my ID anyway so what is the difference? Obviously idiot parents just need to...ya know, parent their children and not rely on Government interference to make the job easier. Yuck...

    September 15, 2010 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Reality

    Kids will just go back to huffing gas anyway. When people want to get high they will find a way.

    September 15, 2010 at 09:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. EM

    "..would penalize patients.." - huh? What a joke. Who do you think sits on the FDA advisory panel? Drug companies! They could care less about penalizing patients - it's each other they don't want to penalize! They know damn well that scriping DM will cut drastically into sales volume. Oh sure, it'll send the price skyrocketing, but higher prices will be drastically offset by lower volumes, so overall profits on DM will plummet. This has less to do with protecting teenagers and more to do with protecting pharmaceutical company profits.

    September 15, 2010 at 23:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. JohnnyFive

    Due to the very high amount of misleading information in most of the prior posts, I'm going to try to clarify some things in an attempt to educate the people who are willing to learn. I just want to help. If you truly care about people abusing this stuff, then you can endure the long post.
    First of all, I read alot of posts stating "kids" or "teens" are abusing this. While I believe it's true that the majority of abusers of DXM are young people, adults abuse it too! And probably more than you'd like to think. I personally know several adults who do it, and they're between the ages of 27 and 48. That being said however, I think it's the kids that are at most risk. But please don't assume it's just the "kids" abusing it. You just hear about the kids more because they don't know what they're doing, hence the danger inherent.

    In a post above...Venting said ,"There is a post on the other board where a girl said she took 32 tablets at once.My questions to her was she attempting suicide or why 32 tablets and what did she think would happen?"
    There's lots of different DXM containing medicines out there, but I'd assume the girl was taking "Coricidin HBP: Cough and Cold" which is the #1 most abused OTC cough medicine. They come in a white and purple box of 2 foil cards each containing 8 shiny round red pills that say "CC" on them in black letters.
    There's other Coricidin HBP products, but none are as "abusable" as the Cough and Cold due to it's higher dose of dxm per pill and lack of acetamenophen or guaifenessen or however it's spelled. It still contains antihistamine which is dangerous in high doses but also seems to alter the dxm's effect causing a heavier more debilitating trip.
    (Coincidentaly(or is it...) it is also the only variety of Coricidin you will see advertised on TV or on a showcase on the Price is Right.)
    She may have took 32 pills either because she didnt know what it would do, or because she DID know what it would do. People generally take between 8 and 16 per dose, depending on their body weight or experience. But due to increases in tolerance, I've known people to take between 16+ and 104 pills in less than 2 hours. I'd say most people would have a BAD time taking 32 at once their first time, while some people eventually end up taking that much to get the same effect as prior trips... But I'm willing to bet that no responsible adults want their kids taking any more than a normal medical dose. So try not to keep too much cough medicine in your home or lock it up.

    You can lock it up all you want, which certainly is a good start, but you need to do more than that!! TALK TO YOUR KIDS!!!! I know you see those commercials on the TV saying Talk to your kids about drugs. You need to let them know you don't want them doing THIS either, even if it's "legal!!" (legal to buy, but says right on the box that it's against fed regulation to use in a manner inconsistant with its labeling) Tell them its dangerous, harmful, and makes you look and act stupid! Tell them only a desperate drug addict seeking a cheap high would abuse cough medicine! Tell them whatever you gotta tell them, but if you don't tell them, who's going to?
    This stuff is a dissociative. It has many many different effects, at different times, and sometimes all at once. It can feel 'similar' to many different drugs but not exactly like anything else. It's in its own category. I've heard its like PCP but I haven't tried pcp... I can only tell you that it's very unpredictable and not to be trifled with. And it has extremely adverse health effects, and the damage can be done the 1st time you try it, or after years of doing it, or never. It affects everyone differently. But the important thing is that the kids are educated and if we have to exaggerate the facts to impress the dangers upon them, then so be it.

    If you read this whole long post(sorry!) then you may be asking yourself 'hey how does this guy know all this?'
    I am 26 years old and I began abusing DXM at age 14. It started as a social and recreational drug an older "friend" told me about. I took 8 the first time, then more later. But I liked it too much. At the time, I had only tried pot and alcohol before, and the trip really appealed to me. Not too long after, I dropped out of school and ran away from home to live with friends.
    I took it more and more as I got older and learned how to get it easier. When I was 17 I took 104 pills(7 boxes) of coricidin in less than 2 hours. By the time I was 18 I was taking up to 3 boxes a night sometimes a few nights in a row, and I "binged" like that a couple times a month.
    Shortly after my 18th birthday I joined the military and continued abusing it when I could find time. After being discharged when I was 20 after I failed a UA for Cocaine and Marijuana I returned home only to use even more drugs. From age 22 to 24 I used DXM almost daily, literally weeks at a time with little or no sleep, taking up to 7 boxes of coricidin a day sometimes. I'd sleep for like 2 days and get up and do it again, with no reality in between, never really coming all the way down.
    It played a hand in 3 felony convictions before I was 18, landed me in the psych ward on 72 hour holds 4 different times, and made me a generally creepy person. My family didnt want to see me, because I was always tripped out. I couldnt keep a girlfriend long. Couldn't keep a job. I was diagnosed with manic-depressive disorder and "drug-induced" schizophrenia at age 22, and the doctors couldn't tell me how long my schizophrenia would last.

    I quit abusing DXM over a year ago after trying to quit failing several times in rehab and finally scaring myself enough to make me wanna quit, and I'm still messed up from it. I'm not as bright as I used to be. My vocabulary has shrunk. My emotional and mental development was stunted and I am still recovering. It ruined my life. I got addicted. It can happen. I am a RARE case, but it can happen, believe me. Now, in all honesty, I don't try to get a job cuz i know i'd quit it as soon as I got paid and I live with my dad while I am recovering. The doctors told me if I try to do too much at once I could easily give up and go back to the drugs. I just stay home and read and watch the news and try to learn things I missed out on school. But I'll never get it all back. I wasted about 10 years of my life living in an alternate reality.
    I just had a full physical exam with bloodwork and liver and kidney tests and all that. No damage to my liver or kidney. I don't know why, but I am very lucky I'm not dead.
    Please, help educate children and vulnerable-type adults and let them know how bad it can turn out. But I guess it's not so bad for me, if you consider that people have DIED resulting from abusing DXM.

    Just remember this stuff's been around since 1958 so it probably won't get made prescription-only. All we can do is educate and prevent.

    TIPS FOR PARENTS WHO SUSPECT DXM ABUSE IN CHILDREN: Talk to your kids about it. Watch your kids. Spend time with them.
    Remove cough medicine from the house or lock it up. But be warned, people don't just get it from the medicine cabinet. They buy it from the store, or steal it from the store or friend's houses. Keep an eye on your kids while you're at the grocery store. When I was younger I'd tell my mom I was going to get a bag of chips from the chip aisle and run over to the medicine aisle and shove a couple boxes in my pants and crush the boxes to quiet down the rattling of the pills. The boxes make a pretty loud rattle when you walk with them in your pocket so listen for that if you suspect them.
    Check your garbage cans in the house or the cans out back too. Lots of times kids will shove the empty boxes and blisterpacks down under something else in the garbage. If you start seeing empty boxes or bottles of cough medicine near your home on the side of the road or somewhere between the store and home, it might be your kid, you never know.
    People will look WAY different and act different when they're on it. Spend a few minutes with them. Ask them questions. If they're tripping they shouldn't be able to function properly unless they have natural or developed tolerance.
    My dad and sister went to all the stores in my area and told the owners to watch for me and gave them my description and even helped influence some stores to put it behind the counter, which made it harder for me to acquire, and now days I'm told you can't even get it in town anymore because people stole it so much that they stopped carrying it. This measure may seem extreme but not when it could save a life.

    And if you're thinking "good job loser you just told kids how to abuse this stuff and get away with it" then think again, because there's many many many pages on the internet dedicated to teaching people how to "safely" do this stuff. And I'm guessing most of your folks' kids know how to use the computer better than you do. 🙂
    I hope all this can somehow help you. I'm gonna copy it and save it so I can look it over, correct grammar/spelling and repost elsewhere. Good luck and God Bless.

    (note: Feel free to call me a bad person and an idiot or whatever you want. You'll probably want to mention that I have bad parents too, as well as criticize me for posting such a long comment and disagree with various things I said. I don't care about any of that, just trying to help people. Peace.)

    September 27, 2010 at 08:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. EmophyAppossy

    Find out how much more colors are there in the world without pain! That's what i want to say here.

    February 2, 2011 at 10:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. kevin richton

    i think people dont realize that there are kids out there who have mental problems like anxiety and every anti-anxiety/depression drug does not work at all in a good way, sure it makes you happy but its not real, real happiness comes from finding your inner self and people with anxiety usually never did. WHY DOESNT AMERICA REALIZE BY NOW THAT DRUGS ARE NOT BAD JUST BECAUSE THEY GET YOU HIGH EVER THINK THAT MIGHT BE SOMETHING GOOD. dxm is the best drug for overcoming your fears and starting over again when your in a real bad spot, this is 2011 people deserve a second chance if they want one, stop living in the 70's things are different now, most kids who use drugs are the ones who have just had bad luck in ife so stop teaming up on them they dont deserve it

    March 8, 2011 at 02:42 | Report abuse | Reply
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