The city of Black River Falls again will consider restricting the sale of cough medicine to minors after a concerned group of residents returned to the council last week to urge the city to take action.
“(Kids) have been taught right from wrong ... but they’ve done it,” said Black River Falls resident Amber Christensen. “These kids right here are our future, and that’s what we need to protect.”
The group — led by Black River Falls resident Cynthia Mathews — returned to the council after the city last month voted against taking any formal action to restrict the sale of products containing dextromethorphan, which several area youth are using to get high.
The residents first pushed for a formal ordinance that would require businesses to place items that contain DXM behind store counters. However, they now have asked the city to pass a resolution that would recommend business owners enforce age restrictions, limit the number of cough medicine products one can purchase at a time and also move the products behind counters.
“I think we can do a lot with a resolution,” said resident Walt Pankowitz, who presented more information about dextromethorphan to the council last week. “It’s a start.”
DXM — known by its street name Dex — is found in several over-the-counter cold medications like Robitussin, NyQuil and Coricidin HBP and is the ingredient intended for cough suppression. When taken in excessive doses, DXM creates a combination of euphoric, stimulant and dissociative effects.
Its abuse — known as “Dexing” or Robotripping” — produces serious side effects like psychosis and cognitive problems, according to UpToDate, a clinical information service. It also can cause liver damage or death.
City officials previously said they felt the issue should be addressed on a state level rather than by local municipalities, but the council voted last week to again discuss the matter at next week’s Committee of the Whole meeting after hearing more information from the group.
“I feel this is an important thing for Black River Falls,” Mathews said.
The group’s request came one week after empty cough medicine packets and aerosol cans were found in apartment where minors were present, although the Black River Falls Police Department couldn’t confirm whether or not the incident was a DXM-related party.
About 1 million U.S. youth and young adults misuse over-the-counter cold and cough medicine each year, and Coricidin, NyQuil and Robitussin accounted for nearly 66 percent of misuse among 12- to 25-year-olds in 2006, according to UpToDate.
The council previously asked the group about providing local statistics on the prevalence of DXM abuse in the area, but Pankowitz said last week that local statistics are difficult to acquire because the trend is underreported.
He said, however, that doesn’t mean DXM abuse isn’t occurring in the area.
“It’s getting out of hand,” he said.
The group’s presentation was met with some opposition at last week’s meeting when BRF business owner Randy Molini voiced concerns about forcing businesses to comply with restrictions.
“Education really is the only way to change people’s mind,” Molini said. “I don’t believe prohibition works ...”
However, Pankowitz reiterated the group isn’t looking for formal restrictions but rather a recommendation to businesses.
“We’re not asking for a law,” he said. “We’re asking for a suggestion.”
The Committee of the Whole is expected to discuss a resolution at its meeting scheduled for March 21. Alderpersons Dave Johnson and Brad Rahmlow voted against reconsidering a resolution.