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Lawmakers Work To Ban Cough Syrup Sales To 18 And Under

By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4)- Lawmakers are coming together for kids to try to keep a potentially abusive medication out of their hands.

It's called Dextromethorphan or DXM and it's in cough syrups sold pretty much anywhere over the counter.

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(credit: CBS)

Teenagers call it Poor Man's Ecstasy, Velvet Syrup or Robo and they're drinking entire bottles of it, sometimes with deadly consequences.

"Our job is not to create a new war on drugs, but to stop another crisis in addiction," Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat representing Longmont, told a House committee on Thursday.

Singer and Rep. Pete Lee, a Democrat representing Colorado Springs, are carrying a bill that would ban the sale of medications with DXM to anyone under age 18.

"The purpose of this bill is to put barriers between teens and these products, these medicines that could kill them," says Lee.

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Gino Arrendondo, 17, was among those who testified in favor of the bill. He says it's the drug of choice for many teenagers including his friend - a star soccer player who he says began abusing cough syrups with DXM.

"He was kicked off the team, he was kicked out of house and he dropped out of school," said Arrendondo.

One in 30 teenagers surveyed - or one per classroom - admits to abusing products with DXM.

Englewood Ice Rescue
The teens rescued from the frozen pond (credit: CBS)

"Every generation, our youth find new way to get high, whether it be sniffing glue, huffing paint and now cough syrup," said Singer, "Now our job, literally as the adults in the room, is to protect our kids."

Colorado Children's Hospital says poison control received 600 calls last year alone because of overdoses on DXM. The danger is so real that manufacturers are the ones pushing for the age restriction. It already has labels on its products and has launched an education campaign.

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(credit: CBS)

Fifteen other states have passed similar laws and Carlos Gutierrez with the Consumer Healthcare Products Association says, "The good news is that these laws and education is working but we still have work to do."

The retail council also supports the bill. It carries a $250 fine for anyone caught selling to someone under the age of 18 on a second offense.

The bill has bipartisan support and passed its first committee.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4's political specialist. She's a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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