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Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

Abuse of over-the-counter meds rising in schools

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

(Photo)
Lynn Romas
Local high schools have seen a rise in the abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medication by students in recent years.

Lynn Romas, Assistant Principal at Northview High School, said incidents with improper use of medication seemed to peak last year, but it is still an issue being addressed.

The most popular medication being abused is cold medicine, including Sudafed and Coricidrin.

Coricidrin, as well as cough suppressant Robitussen, have the ingredient DXM.

Vicodin, a prescription painkiller, is another popular pill with students.

Colleen Wiley, a junior member of the Clay City Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) chapter, said students will "mine" their parents and grandparents medicine cabinets for pills to take and swap.

Wiley and SADD advisor Jane Jackson recently attended a workshop on the abuse of OTC.

Not only are OTC drugs easy to hide and readily available, their effects are not necessarily visible to other students or faculty.

Teachers will also not press students who attribute unusual behavior to being sick.

Wiley said she recently encountered another student who was acting unusual in class, and eventually came to the conclusion the student was under the influence of medication.

Wiley also encountered pill abuse in middle school.

She followed some of her friends into the bathroom to continue a conversation, and her friends each had some Sudafed.

When she realized they were abusing the pills, she declined participation and left the bathroom.

Romas said there had been fewer incidents at Northview this year, but staff is still monitoring the situation.

Romas said, beyond the no backpack rule, if a student is suspected of possessing or distributing prescription or OTC drugs, the student will be observed by faculty and staff more closely in the hallways and at lunch.

"I think our staff does a very good job. If they notice anything suspicious, they call me and we check it out," Romas said.

Students who regularly need medication during the school day give their medication to the nurse, and the nurse dispenses the correct amount to the student.

The Knight's Code, the disciplinary manual at Northview, lumps abuse of medication in with illegal drugs. This means the disciplinary action taken when a student is found possessing, distributing or is under the influence of medication is a 10-day, out-of-school suspension and recommendation for expulsion.

Last year, a student was disciplined for distributing and selling the vitamin Niacin under the ruse that it was a drug.

Outside of school, young adults are having "Skittle Parties," where Coricidrin pills are mixed with Skittles candies in a punch bowl and consumed by the handful.

There is no way to judge how much of the medication is being ingested.

Romas is not aware of any "Skittle Parties" held locally, but cautiously warned "never say never."

Wiley said parent awareness and monitoring of the medicine cabinet is an important way to reduce students' abuse of medication.

Earlier this school year, Romas received a phone call from a parent saying some medication was missing and asked him to "check out" her son.

"If parents are doing a good job monitoring things and locking pills up, then their kids don't have that access," Romas said.

In December, the Clay City SADD chapter will be working on an awareness day for medication abuse.



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