Measure designed to combat teen drug use passes committee

TRENTON – Minors would no longer be legally able to buy over-the-counter cough syrups and related products under legislation designed to thwart teens from getting high on the products.

Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, (D-4), Turnersville, told the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee he wrote the legislation (A650) after a visit from a constituent who told him her daughter was getting high on the cough medicine.

“It’s a high apparently similar to PCP,” Moriarty, a committee member, told his fellow legislators.

“They call it the poor man’s PCP because it’s cheap and it’s easy to obtain.”

The targeted ingredient’s scientific name is dextromethorphan, though Moriarty and others say it’s known among teens and others who’ve been abusing it as “DXM.”

Moriarty at one point held up some printouts of Twitter feeds he said he’d gotten today simply by plugging DXM into a search. And he said it’s a popular point of discussion among users making plans for using the stuff to get high in what some call “robo-tripping,” a name derived from the Robitussin cough medicine brand.

But other members said they were concerned that the estimated 120 products that use the ingredient would be too much for drug stores or cashiers to keep track of, possibly exposing them to $750 fines for selling to underage consumers.

“I just think it’s going too far to say anything and everything that contains DXM needs to be off-limits,” said Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, (R-13), Belford. She said it’s likely some products containing DXM would be impossible to get high on given the amount that would have to be ingested.

But several lobbyists for pharmacies, including chains and independently owned stores, testified in favor of the legislation, easing the concerns of Handlin and others.

One lobbyist said some pharmacies already keep cough medicines out of the aisles to keep them from shoplifters and teens suspected of buying the product to get high.

The legislation wouldn’t require the products to be kept behind the counter, a concession Moriarty said he made as a compromise with the retailers.

All nine committee members voted for the bill.

Measure designed to combat teen drug use passes committee