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WASHINGTON — AAFES announced Friday that it is voluntarily limiting sales of products with cough-suppressing ingredient DXM to customers under the age of 18.

Dextromethorphan is an ingredient contained in more than 140 over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, including Coricidin, Robitussin DM, and Vicks 44.

“Legislation is pending in several states that would restrict sales to people under 18, and other retailers are already restricting its sale,” said AAFES spokesman Judd Anstey.

When taken as directed and used properly, DXM is safe, but research shows that abuse of DXM is becoming an issue.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, abuse of the drug can cause “death as well as other serious adverse events such as brain damage, seizure, loss of consciousness, and irregular heartbeat.”

There have been incidents of abuse at overseas Army and Air Force Exchange stores. In December 2003, Stripes reported cases of abuse in Japan and South Korea, and in December 2005, a soldier in South Korea cited his addiction to such medicines in court-martial proceedings.

While there is not a legal requirement to flag products with this ingredient, AAFES announced that as of Jan. 24, a message on the cash register will alert cashiers to verify the age of the person buying products with DXM.

Customers can still find cough and cold medicines with DXM in the Health and Beauty Care department of their BX/PX, AAFES said in a press release, and that the only difference customers will encounter will be at checkout.

A recent report in the Chicago Tribune noted that teenagers have discovered that at higher-than-recommended doses, DXM can produce hallucinogenic effects. Cough medicine also can be used in combination with other medications, alcohol or illegal drugs, which can increase dangerous side effects, the paper noted.

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