Teens abusing medicines containing dextromethorphan is not a widespread problem but law enforcement officers are aware of the trend among small groups.
“We are well aware of this issue with some kids,” said Washington Patrolman Doug Tollison, one of two school resource officers on the force.
“It’s not running rampant, but it’s out there,” Tollison said.
He said there have been a couple of incidents when police and high school officials removed students who were under the influence of the drug.
“We are seeing it being used in select groups, mainly by younger students — freshmen and sophomores,” Tollison said.
Dextromethorphan is used as a cough suppressant. It is legal and found in numerous over-the-counter medications.
Taken in large doses, the drug causes a high similar to PCP, or angel dust, including hallucinations and at times can result in violent behavior.
A Washington mother whose 14-year-old daughter has abused the drug is seeking to make other parents and the community aware of the problem. (See related story.)
One of the more common medicines abused by younger teens is Coricidin-C, often called Triple C or “skittles,” because it comes in a small red pill.
Tollison said another medicine being abused is Robitussin, which also contains dextromethorphan. Teens mix it with soda or energy drinks.
“Sometimes they mix the two (Coricidin-C and Robitussin) together,” Tollison explained.
“Our school resource officers are being very proactive to the problem,” Washington Police Chief Ken Hahn said.
People must be 18 years old to buy medicines with dextromethorphan, but some stores don’t check IDs and in many cases, teens steal the product off the shelves.
However, Tollison said now store personnel are starting to crack down on the sales of those medicines and requiring IDs.
Back in February, St. Clair police responded to the high school to a report of two girls, 14 and 16, being under the influence of Coricidin-C, St. Clair Police Chief Bill Hammack said.
The girls were taken by ambulance to Mercy Hospital Washington for treatment and both recovered.
Authorities learned that the girls had stolen the medicine from the Union Wal-Mart store.
Union police said they are aware of the drug but have not had any reports of abuse by local teens.
Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner, head of the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit, said his officers have not heard much about the problem, perhaps because local police are handling those, and the fact that those medicines are not illegal.
“We haven’t had a single call or complaint about it,” Grellner said.
He said in the past there was a push to move Coricidin-C off the shelves and behind the pharmacy counter because of the abuse.
But that move did not gain traction because dextromethorphan is “so prevalent” in lots of medications, he said.