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Default School warns of cold-remedy abuse - 12-22-2011, 01:15 PM

Fairless Local School District administrators are calling on parents and community members to help wage a war on the misuse of over-the-counter drugs.

Fairless High School has, in recent weeks, had a number of students overdose on cough suppressant medication.

“They are taking a lot of pills to get high and, as a result, they are sent to the hospital,” Fairless Superintendent Dr. Mona Fair said. “They are not taking just one or two pills in a recommended dose, they’re taking nine or 10 at a time.”

To counter the trend, Fairless administrators are taking a more proactive approach through education to help curb the misuse of medication. But Fair says the entire community should play a role in encouraging students to curb misuse of the drugs.

“We are working with parents and the police to try and get this situation under control,” Fair said. “We are encouraging parents to monitor the items in the medicine cabinets and talk with their children about the dangers of taking medication outside the recommended dosage.”

Brewster Fire Capt. Jennifer Mohler acknowledged that emergency medical crews have been called to Fairless High in recent weeks to care for students who have intentionally ingested large amounts of cold medication. She also believes addressing the matter will involve educating students and parents about the dangers.

“Fighting this is going to be an education thing,” Mohler said. “Students are doing this because they think its fun. They don’t realize it is something can affect them for the rest of their lives. … They are not thinking of the consequences.”


Mohler said that overdoses of any kind of medication can cause permanent damage to organs, but that overdosing on dextromethorphan-containing medication affects the heart, often causing arrhythmia.

Other symptoms of cold-medication overdose include nausea, hot flashes, hallucinations, slurred speech and apparent lethargy.

“Kids will be slower and more awkward in their movements,” Mohler said. “They may even complain of shortness of breath.”

Abusing over-the-counter medication is nothing new. Mohler notes that several years ago, students were drinking cough syrup for the same reason.

Today, students are taking large amounts of cough-suppressing caplets and pills that contain dextromethorphan. The medications often include the intitals “DM” or contain the phrase “tuss” in the name.

“The new medication is cheaper, and it’s easier to get hold of; kids just take more of it,” Mohler said. “They are taking high doses of it. They’re doing it for the trippy high.”

Mohler, like Fair, encouraged parents to talk with their children about the dangers of the over-the-counter drugs. Students also should be discouraged from taking any medication offered to them by another student.

“I, personally, have spoken to my children about not taking medication from anyone,” Mohler said, “because you never know what you are getting.”


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