Kids Getting High On Cold Meds

May 4, 2006

Millions of Americans use over-the-counter drugs to cure the cough and cold--but now some are using them to get high, which can have severe side effects. There is some evidence that says more young people are using medicines like Claritin, Sudafed, and even Tylenol for a buzz, but it can also land them in the hospital.

From allergy medicines to cold and flu busters adolescents aren't using these to get healthy, but get high.

"We've had to put kids into the intensive care unit who have done that as abuse," said Dr. Chris Holstege of the Blue Ridge Poison Center.

The Blue Ridge Poison Center sees many who have abused drugs with dextromethorphan, which is derived from opium. This is found in products like NyQuil and Zicam. The buzz is a hallucinogen--but people can also get bad buzzes.

The symptoms of a bad buzz can include "agitation, combative, confused, heart rate speeds up, their temperatures can go very high, the respiratory rate goes up, they can have seizures," explained Holstege.

Like any drug addiction, some get desperate and steal what they need. Greg Mowbrey provides security at local grocery stores and says he sees the same kids coming in again and again.

"Not too long ago I caught a 17-year-old kid who was an artist. I mean he showed me some of the stuff he's done, but he's addicted to [cold medicines]," said Mowbrey with the security division.

The kids usually come in groups of three or four.

"We call them a front man. One of them will go off [and] wants you to be on them. They'll leave the..aisle and go to another aisle so you won't be on the other [kids], but the other ones will work the aisle," said Mowbrey.

He says they then go to the bathroom and unload the pills into their pockets.

"They're so good at it they can stick their hands in the aisle with their coats and unload that stuff and put it right up their sleeve," said Mowbrey.

Mowbrey turns minors over to their parents, but says it's usually not worth taking those over 18 to court because they get little if any punishments.

"I've had them the same day get, go to court and get arrested and that same day end up getting them in the store for stealing, doing the same thing again," said Mowbrey.

Many grocery stores have security and cameras, but that doesn't always stop them. Several drugs are also locked up, but new drugs come on the market everyday and you can't lock-up everything.

These kids are also using other medicines as pick-ups as well as hallucinogens.

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