US to Ration Cold Medicine to Curb Drug Misuse


SEOUL -- U.S. Forces Korea has announced that the command will soon begin monitoring the sale of some over-the-counter drugs in an effort to curb an 18-month increase in drug misuse and abuse cases.

In a statement posted this week on USFK's website, the military said it will use its ration-control monitoring system to track medication purchases beginning on March 31.

The statement did not say whether the monitoring would apply to all over-the-counter medications or only to those containing a drug that USFK singled out in the statement as being problematic -- dextromethorphan, commonly known as DXM. DXM is a cough suppressant found in some cold and flu medications, such as NyQuil.

For years, medicines containing DXM have been the target of abuse. In what is commonly known as "robo-tripping," a person consumes a large amount of the medication to get high.

According to the USFK statement, the "monitoring threshold" is three units of medication -- defined as a bottle, box or other container -- per family or individual per month.

"Military law enforcement routinely checks the ration control monitoring system for signs of excess purchases and investigates potential cases," it said.

USFK said its law-enforcement agencies have recorded an increase in over-the-counter drug misuse and abuse cases during the past 18 months. There have been more than 200 potential cases of abuse, officials said.

Misuse and abuse of medications violates USFK policy and could result in punishments under the Uniform Code of Military Justice as well as other administrative actions, the statement said.

"Because abuse and misuse of over-the-counter medications directly impacts readiness and our ability to fight tonight, USFK considers this a serious matter and we aggressively investigate and deal with those who violate policy," the statement quoted USFK Provost Marshal Col. Laurence Lobdell as saying.

USFK did not provide a full list of medications that will be monitored by deadline.

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