New Florida law bans teens from buying cough medicine

Law takes effect Jan. 1, 2017

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -
The year of 2016 is almost behind us. This weekend, new laws take effect in Florida the minute we ring in the New Year.
   
Starting this Sunday, one of those laws will prevent teenagers from finding a cheap high with cough medicine.
 
As a mother and a pharmacist at Family Choice Pharmacy in West Palm Beach, Audrey Robinson knows how teens can be these days -- especially when it comes to the dangers of cough syrup.
 
"They find the weirdest thing to start abusing," she said.
 
But a new law takes effect Jan. 1, preventing anyone under 18 years of age from buying over-the-counter cough suppressants.
 
"It's a step in the right direction," said Robinson. "It's something that can be done here, where they can't get access to it -- but parents still need to play a role at home to make sure it's secured."
 
Senate Bill 938 applies to cough medicine specifically containing the ingredient Dextromethorphan. 
 
Dextromethorphan is found in many cough medicines, including Robitussin, Alka Seltzer Plus, Tylenol Cough & Cold and Vicks NyQuil.
 
"They use it to get like an alcohol affect. Dextromethorphan in high doses can cause hallucinations, a drunken feeling, dizziness," said Dawn Rantinella, pharmacist at Center City Pharmacy in West Palm Beach.
 
Rantinella said she has had issues with local teens.
 
"I noticed that my shelf was cleared off, every now and then. And I didn't understand why, until I realized people were using it in the streets," she said. 
 
Rantinella said the pharmacy even had to make adjustments to their inventory to help with the problem.
 
"We started buying smaller bottles instead of the bigger bottles and regulating ourselves on it so we would see what was going on with the bottles," she said.
 
But she says the new law can be an inconvenience for those who genuinely need the medicine.
 
"A lot of times, they don't know how to stop the drug abuse, outside of the pharmacy. So they try different ways to do it. One of them is going to be the government stepping in and trying to regulate that," she said. "Some people aren't OK with that, but they're going to try it, see if it works. I think it's going to put a little bit of a stop on it, at least regulate it a little bit. People are trying to get the drugs off the street."
 
The new law is similar to the law imposed in recent years on Sudafed purchases. 
 
"Underage kids were buying it and using it to make meth," said Rantinella. "Just like with the Sudafed, it did cut down on meth labs here in Florida."
 
Nita Pettis, a primary therapist with South Ocean Recovery drug rehabilitation in West Palm Beach says cough medicine abuse can be just the beginning for teenagers heading down a dark path, so she hopes the new law will prevent her from seeing more young people in her clinic.
 
"It's definitely going to be a game changer," she said. "Hopefully it will help to decrease the number of people that become addicted to more harder, life-changing and life-devastating drugs."
 
The new law also requires those who appear to be under 25 years old to show identification at the register.
 
The other laws kicking off in 2017 involve insurance policy coverage of opioid medications and how financial institutions can receive summonses and subpoenas
 
 
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