Five Seneca Ridge Middle School students were hospitalized for high-blood pressure after abusing an over-the-counter drug while at school Wednesday.
The students, ranging from 12 to 14 years old, swallowed Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold tablets.
Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kraig Troxell said one of the students went to the school’s clinic around 11 a.m. with an elevated blood pressure and admitted to taking the cold medicine. A few minutes later, another student came to the office with similar symptoms.
"After interviewing students they associated with, we determined there were up to seven students involved," Troxell said. "Five students, four females and one male, were transported to area hospitals for treatment. Two other students believed to be involved had no symptoms."
The five students were treated and released from the hospital and the incident remains under investigation by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.
THE LOUDOUN County Sheriff’s Office is familiar with the abuse of over-the-counter drugs.
"Teens have a nickname for Coricidin," Troxell said. "They call it 'Triple C' or 'Orange Crush.'"
Last year, five Harmony Intermediate School ninth-graders were hospitalized for taking a combination of Dramamine, a motion sickness drug, and Coricidin in the Hamilton school bathroom. All five students were treated at Loudoun Hospital Center and were released.
Although the students did not face criminal charges, taking any medication without supervision is against school policy.
Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold tablets contain Dextromethorphan (DXM), a cough suppressant.
Loudoun County Health Department Director Dr. David Goodfriend said when taken in large quantities, DXM produces hallucinogenic effects.
"Coricidin contains a higher amount of DXM than other over-the-counter cough and cold drugs," Goodfriend said, "and in this case, it’s easier to abuse the pill than drink a bottle of syrup."
It is also easier for teenagers to have the pill form of the drug on them, in public, he added.
DXM can also produce physiological effects including elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure and dilated pupils.
"While abusing Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold medicine is not likely to kill a healthy teenager, it will cause jitteriness, dry mouth and an increase in blood pressure," Goodfriend said. "These side effects will send a teen to the emergency room."
THE BEST way for parents to avoid a trip to the emergency room is to be involved in their children’s lives, Goodfriend said.
"Parents need to know what their child’s normal behavior is like, so they’re able to notice when they’re acting differently," he said.
Loudoun County Public Schools social worker Allyne Zappalla said there are several signs parents should be on the look out for.
"If a child is abusing over-the-counter drugs, they might seem very agitated. They may seem sleepy, almost like they’re intoxicated," she said.
Zappalla said it is important for parents to be aware of what’s in their medicine cabinet.
"There are a lot of medicines that don’t contain DXM, which is what the kids are getting high on," she said.
Loudoun County’s Community Anti-Drug Coalition, comprised of community members and organizations, has been instrumental in putting DXM drugs behind the counter, Zapalla said.
For example, in order to purchase Coricidin tablets at Loudoun County’s Shopper’s Food Warehouse in Sterling, customers have to pick up a slip for the drug in the medicine isle and redeem it at the store’s pharmacy.
"A lot of pharmacies and drug stores are aware of this," Troxell said. "They’re keeping Coricidin behind the counter."