Pubdate: Fri, 19 Jan 2007
Source: Star-News (NC)
Copyright: 2007 Wilmington Morning Star
Author: Ken Little


As young people look for a buzz, police say thefts go unreported

It's known as "robo-tripping" and can spell serious trouble for those 
who partake. The practice of abusing over-the-counter cold 
medications like Robitussin is on the increase among young people, 
who will sometimes take extraordinary steps to get a buzz, police said.

One incident just before Christmas involves a man who police say 
walked into the Eckerd store at 501 Olde Waterford Way in Leland. The 
man took three bottles of different types of cough medicine into a 
restroom and drank all of them, the manager told police.

Leland's Michael Keenan, 28, is charged with shoplifting in 
connection with the Dec. 23 incident. The case is pending in 
Brunswick County District Court. Many such thefts go unreported, said 
Leland police Lt. Charles Bost, who recalled a similar recent 
incident at a Food Lion.

"I don't think they get reported, every single one," Bost said. "I 
think a lot of times somebody goes into a back room and finds empty 
bottles of cold medicine and just throws them out."

Medications available over the counter like Robitussin syrup and 
Vicks NyQuil are often associated with abuse, but others are also 
popular. Coricidin brand cold medicine, a cough suppressant, is 
sometimes taken in large doses for its content of the drug 
dextromethorphan, which is also the active ingredient in some 
formulations of Robitussin and other cough medicines. When used in 
compliance with medicine label directions, dextromethorphan produces 
few side effects. But when large doses are taken, side effects can 
include confusion, dizziness, blurred vision, slurred speech, loss of 
physical coordination, abdominal pain, rapid heartbeat, drowsiness 
and nausea. A recent study by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America 
shows that one out of 10 teenagers from across the country used cough 
medicine to get high in 2005 - a number exceeding 2 million. Often, 
teenagers find information about cough medicine abuse and the effects 
of dextromethorphan on the Internet, according to the organization. 
The drug is sometimes abused in combination with other medications, 
illegal substances or alcohol, which can increase dangerous side 
effects. "They will kind of dabble in some of these things on the 
side," said John Dail, a certified substance abuse counselor who 
works with adolescents at the Coastal Horizons Center in Wilmington.

"I have heard that most of the stuff kids are mentioned with as far 
as over-the-counter (medications) is Coricidin," Dail said. "A lot of 
the kids in Brunswick County were reporting the use of Coricidin." 
Dail often learns about the abuse of over-the-counter medications by 
young clients after their parents find empty product boxes in the 
house. Some of the larger retail chains, like Wal-Mart, don't allow 
people to purchase cold medicines in excessive quantities, Dail said. 
Pharmacists and operators of locally owned drugstores said they don't 
see many instances of over-the-counter medication abuse, particularly 
since a new state law went into effect last year requiring that 
products containing ingredients used in the manufacture of 
methamphetamine be placed behind the counter. A purchaser now must 
sign for them and show identification. "That's where you were getting 
a lot of OTCs that were being abused, but it's real hard to 
determine," said Susan Harrington, owner of Tom's Drug Co., at 1 
Front St. in downtown Wilmington.

"We just don't seem to have that problem," Harrington said. "Young 
people have colds, too."

Pharmacist Edwin Link, owner of the Medicine Shoppe at 1612 Market 
St., said many local pharmacies don't stock large volumes of 
over-the-counter medications like larger retailers.

"I don't see any problem here in our store. I don't get a lot of kids 
coming in to buy here," Link said.

Abuse of Coricidin pills, Robitussin and other over-the-counter 
medications has increased tenfold among teenagers since 1999, 
according to a study by the California Poison Control System.

Dail said the most popular drugs abused by teenagers in the 
Brunswick-New Hanover-Pender tri-county area remain alcohol, 
marijuana, and opiates and other painkillers, in that order.
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