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'Mad Max' and cough syrup link explored
    #4590821 - 08/28/05 02:32 PM (12 years, 7 months ago)


'Mad Max' and cough syrup link explored
Dionne Waugh
Sunday, August 28, 2005

Most of us can?t imagine taking dozens of cold and cough tablets or chugging a bottle of Robitussen just to get high.

But for some teens, those over-the-counter medications are a cheap and easily accessible answer.

Though the greater Lynchburg area is not seeing a rise in the abuse of over-the-counter medication by teens, the effects onthose who do use can be serious.

A Campbell County teenager accused of committing two break-ins, a rape and a beating told authorities he had consumed Coricidin HBP, an over-the-counter cold medicine, during the nights of the incidents.

The perpetrator called himself ?Mad Max? during the attacks and told his victims that ?this is what I do.?

Shay William Ward, who was 17 at the time of the incidents in late April and early May, said he had taken the medication and gone for a walk, but could only remember bits and pieces of the evening, investigators testified in court earlier this month.

Abuse of over-the-counter medications by teens prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue a warning in May about the abuse of dextromethorphan (DXM), a synthetically produced ingredient found in many over-the-counter cough and cold remedies.

The abuse is widespread enough to prompt some Walgreens and CVS stores to restrict the sale of Coricidin.

Lynchburg is no exception. The Timberlake Road Walgreens, for example, only lets customers buy a single pack at a time from the pharmacy.

One Web site, www.coricidin.org, is devoted to educating people about the dangers of abusing Coricidin, spotlighting more than a dozen violent crimes and suicides committed across the country by people while under the influence of the drug.

Robert F. Golaszewski, who maintains the site, said that Coricidin is different and much more dangerous than the high-inducing element - DXM - it contains.

In addition to DXM, Coricidin also contains chlorpheniramine maleate. This is a class of drug that in general is very dangerous to take in large doses with DXM, the site states.

Worse yet, that drug is also metabolized by the same liver enzyme as is DXM.

The competition for this limited enzyme by the two drugs makes taking them together, in large doses, a dangerous combination, the site states.

Golaszewski points out that DXM has been around since the 1960s, it?s just gotten more attention recently. Coricidin, in particular, has become popular because of its pill form, as opposed to cough syrup.

The abuse of the drug has multiple physical and psychological effects.

Using Coricidin and any other drug in excess or in combination with other drugs can cause blackouts, said Sharon Wood, the project manager with the substance abuse and mental health services administration at Central Virginia Community Services, which works with the state department to provide local programs, including substance abuse.

?A person can have blackouts when they can?t remember specific periods. They may remember up to a certain time and not anything after. My own personal experience is that not a lot remember bits and pieces, they just don?t remember periods of time,? she said.

Physically, the drug can cause serious liver and kidney damage because the drugs are filtered through those organs, Wood said.

The drugs can also affect a person?s memory, concentration and cause mood swings, restlessness, disturbances in sleep and eating patterns, she said.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the psychological effects of abusing medications containing DXM vary depending on the amount taken, but they can range from depressant and mild hallucinogenic effects to a sense of complete dissociation from one?s body.

Nicknamed ?Triple C? or ?Skittles? because of its size and red color, the medications are popular among teens for several reasons, the top being that they?re easily accessible, some as close as their parents? medicine cabinet.

The Internet has also encouraged the drug?s popularity with the creation of Web sites that explain how to use the drug and give recipes for mixing the medication with other drugs, such as Robitussen, cocaine, marijuana and alcohol.

Even media stories that seek to raise awareness of the dangers of using the drug also pique teens? interest.

?A lot of people didn?t know how to do it until someone told them how not to do it,? Wood said.

But there are often warning signs before the drug use gets serious, she said.

Wood said parents should look for changes in their child?s behavior such as their eating and sleeping habits, what kinds of friends they?re hanging out with, school performance, attitudes at home and at school and if they?re becoming more isolative and irritable.

?A lot of times they see the values go down - stealing, lying, fighting, the rudeness, the intimidation, aggressiveness - that they may not have seen in this child,? Wood said.

?The values have been taken over by the drug. Things they normally would not have done they?re now are able to do and not have a lot of guilt about it.?

For a variety of reasons, a lot of parents don?t want to face the facts that their child may be using drugs, Wood said.

?I think sometimes it?s their own fears that they haven?t been good enough parents. We brush it off,? she said.

?Sometimes there?s a history of addiction in the family, so it?s a right-of-passage type thing and we ignore it.?

Parents also may not realize that the drugs of today are much stronger than they were 10 or 20 years ago, Wood said.

Others parents may be too busy, embarrassed or unsure of where to go to get their teen help.

?Parents need to follow through. If their child is using, go and get them help while they still can instead of waiting until something serious happens, like this case,? she said.


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