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Kids now using cold medicine as hallucinogen

Friday, January 28, 2005

(Photo)
Samantha McClung stocks shelves at Super D in Sikeston.
SIKESTON -- As if parents today don't already have enough to worry about, now there's another over-the-counter cold medicine teenagers are increasingly abusing and using as an hallucinogen.

"It's been brought to our attention that kids in our area are using Coricidin HBP Cold and Cough as a drug. They're overdosing on it," said Bill Lawson, chief juvenile officer for the 33rd Circuit which consists of Scott and Mississippi counties.

The basic ingredient teens are targeting is dextromethorphan, which is used as cough suppressant in more than 125 over-the-counter medicines including Coricidin HBP Cold and Cough, Robitussin DM and Nyquil, Lawson noted.

"What's happened is kids are going off to college and bringing it home, and the younger kids are picking up on it," Lawson said. "It's part of the over-the-counter drug scene. Kids figure if they take enough of something, it affects their moods and attitude."

According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, misuse of the drug creates both depressant and mild hallucinogenic effects.

"Kids think nothing bad is going to happen to them and it's really beginning here, but it can be something serious," Lawson pointed out.

If a child consumes large doses of a product containing dextromethorphan, it may cause a number of adverse effects, including impaired judgment and mental performance, loss of coordination, dizziness, nausea, hot flashes, dissociation and hallucinations, The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports.

"The thing about the pill form of Coricidin is they can take it faster and take a handful as opposed to drinking a whole bottle that tastes nasty," Lawson said.

Lawson pointed out abusing Coricidin is not the only thing teens are doing, but rather another drug teens are abusing. "It's not what they do all the time; it's just on occasion, when they can't get any pot, ecstasy or another cheap over-the-counter drug," Lawson said.

Those who have been reported as overdosing on Coricidin have typically been around age 15 and older, Lawson said. To teen's the drug is also known as Triple C, Red Devils, Poor Man's PCP, Robo and DXM.

Part of the reason teens are using the OTC medicine is the convenience of it, Lawson noted. For this reason, juvenile officers recently talked about teen abuse of the cold drug with all of the pharmacies in Sikeston.

"Most of them were aware of it and had already removed the products from the shelves," Lawson said.

Sikeston Super D pharmacist Mike Tullis said Coricidin has been moved behind the store's counters indefinitely.

"About a year ago, Coricidin was stolen from our shelves. I couldn't figure out why because most of the Coricidin products are for older people and for those with high blood pressure," Tullis recalled.

Tullis admitted he was stumped because typically it's the pseudophedrine products that are targeted by methamphetamine manufacturers/users. It wasn't until the juvenile officers recently visited that everything pieced together, he said.

Randy Ackman, pharmacist at Randy's Rx in Sikeston, noted since 90 percent of his business is from prescriptions, he hasn't had a problem with young people trying to purchase Coricidin. And The Medicine Shoppe in Sikeston doesn't even carry Coricidin, a store official said.

Although Lawson isn't sure if there have been any local deaths associated with abusing Coricidin, it is very possible, especially since cough medicines depress the central nervous system, he reminded.

Lawson said alerting pharmacists and the public about the cold medicine abuse is important because a safety issues is involved.

"Parents need to be aware kids have had lot of pressure on them to go one way or another and they need to be aware of what the kids are doing and understand some of the pressures on them are not always positive," Lawson commented.

And if parents are suspicious, the first thing they need to do is find out what it is their child is taking, Lawson advised. Their first concern should be their child's physical well being because once they're safe, the behavior can be dealt with, he explained.

In addition parents should be aware if their child is using cough and cold medications outside of cold and flu season or if he or she continues to self-medicate after symptoms have subsided, recommended The National Institute on Drug Abuse. Parents should also take inventory of products in their medicine cabinet and monitor their child's Internet use since Coricidin can be purchased online.

"Parents just need to be aware of the situation and what kids are using it for," Lawson said. "They need to be looking for it and making sure their kids aren't abusing this medicine."