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Uploaded: Monday, March 22, 2004, 11:25 a.m.

New Assembly bill to combat 'robotripping'

State Assemblyman Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, is hoping to put an end to the latest way teenagers are getting high -- a process called "robotripping" or "tussing."

Named for the popular cough syrup Robotussin, Simitian says this kind of drug abuse is gaining popularity for teens looking for an inexpensive and easy way to get high. The culprit is dextromethorphan, or DXM, an ingredient found in over-the-counter cough medicine and cold remedies.

"Anyone can go to the store to buy this stuff. It's an over-the-counter medicine," Simitian said.

"And kids are not buying just one bottle or box, they're buying several at a time."

Simitian will submit AB 1853 in an effort to counter the trend. The bill would prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from buying non-prescription drugs containing DXM. It is scheduled to be addressed this week in the state Capitol.

"Abuse of DXM is dangerous, it can cause a heart attack, it can kill you. This is all about saving young lives," the assemblyman said.

"DXM abuse in teenagers is a serious problem," concurred Dr. Ilene Anderson, a clinical pharmacist and toxicologist with the California Poison Control System.

"We've seen a significant increase in the abuse and overdose of DXM-containing cold products in the last four years. Many of these patients require hospital treatment."

Two Palo Alto police officers reported witnessing a 14-year-old having a heart attack and another teen having a seizure after overdosing on Coricidin, an over-the-counter cough medicine that contains DXM.

"We needed to do something -- make people more aware this abuse was going on and this is not just a passing fad," said Detective Wayne Benitez of the Palo Alto Police Department.

"We're now seeing it in middle schools. We're seeing it at an earlier age."

Benitez and Palo Alto Police Lt. Ronald Lawrence sent their proposal for what became AB 1853 during Simitian's annual "There Oughta Be a Law" contest. They urged the assemblyman to take steps to outlaw the sale of non-prescription drugs containing DXM to minors.

Simitian said he selected the entry because "it was a problem that was serious, widespread and growing."

The DXM bill will come up for review before the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday where Simitian said it is expected to meet stiff opposition from retailers and drug companies.
-- Bay City News Service

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