A guide for parents and the media who wonder why kids abuse all sorts of legal and illegal substances that lead to bodily harm and death.
by J. E. Miller Edited by Ann Gambrino
I “Robo-Tripped” by drinking my first four-ounce bottle of Robitussin when I was 16-years old – more than 15 years ago. Robitussin is a common, over-the-counter cough syrup that contains the synthetic chemical DXM, a molecular composition similar to morphine that has been a common addition to over-the-counter (OTC) cough suppressants and tablets since the 1970s. At the time, it was a cheap and easy way to get a high, and in retrospect, I’m lucky I didn’t die. My reasons for trying this method of escape were mainly peer pressure and an attempt to have my parents notice me should I expire and make the evening news, as the recent students did.
On September 10, 2008, four teens (all female) who were attending Matheson Junior High (MJH) in Magna, overdosed after taking a guardian’s prescribed medication, Tramadol, (aka Ultram), a medication used to treat severe pain, and that has been suggested to assist with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Using Tramadol has not been fully endorsed by the medical community, but kids are able to get the drug through from their doctors by pretending they are depressed.
The MJH girls began showing symptoms of what appeared to be asphyxiation. As a result, fellow students reported their conditions to school the administrators, who, in turn, called medical personal, and the police, so they could to take charge. Sirens blared, and silent stares and worry blanketed the faces of MJH students and faculty as these young women were taken to a hospital, made stable, and released some time later. The girls face more issues as it is a felony to carry a controlled substance into a “Drug-Free Zone”. And, if that wasn’t enough, just one day later, a Granite High School student (also female) overdosed on Robitussin. Only a hundred feet off campus at a local chain restaurant, this student was found in an uncontrollable state. Again, the sirens blared, and students looked on with concern and in silence, waiting to feel some sanity and comfort of knowing their fellow student will survive this. No charges have been filed against her as she was using simple, legal cough medicine.
The effects of such a copious amount of cough syrup are similar to those of any other illegal drug: hallucinations, nausea, and a feeling that you are about to faint.
I first tried Robo-Tripping in a mall, in North Carolina, while hanging out with fellow “Tussinites”, (peers who use prescription and OTC meds to get high). My first trip didn’t go well as I immediately ran to the restroom, vomited, and remained there until I could walk again. This is not a fun high, I can assure you, and to this day, I cannot take a tablespoon of cough syrup without feeling anxious that I will have a sudden onset of these symptoms again.
More than 60 percent of teens say that drugs are sold, used, or kept at their schools. As shocking as this may seem, this isn’t anything new. These statistics are based on a national study done over ten 10 years ago. These statistics include not only illicit drugs, but also prescription, and OTC medications. These common household medications stand tall beside ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and many others. While Utah may have the lowest percentage of teens that who use alcohol (10.3 percent), we cannot overlook the fact that other illicit drugs, (now including prescription and over-the-counter chemicals, are readily available for their consumption
Sixty-three percent of kids who drink alcohol and take prescription medications say that they initially obtained controlled substances from their own, or their friend’s, homes. A 2005 study by the National Center for Health Statistics states that the medical costs cost of drug abuse alone was estimated to be nearly $60 billion in 2005, and the medical costs cost for alcohol abuse was nearly $100 billion. Though I could not find a more recent figure, I am sure the amount is has increased substantially since 2005. The financial burden alone should be stifling to taxpayers, whether they have children or not.
These teens, these young citizens of our beautiful city … How could they abuse themselves so horribly? What makes them consider what they consider? I have self-medicated my sorrows and anxieties with copious amounts of OTC meds, alcohol and illicit drugs in the past. Today, I find myself hating the legal medications prescribed by my doctors.
We can note that over the past few weeks, as well as the past decades, teens are lack parental guidance. When households were more traditional, parental guidance was far less more common than it is today. It is my opinion that family values have been lost dwindled in all types of families: conservative, liberal, and independent alike, and the as a result, is we find more kids who want to harm themselves.
Mainstream media attacked Granite High School regarding the death of its student. They wanted immediate answers from a spokesperson, as though that would help solve the issue and help everyone sleep better at night. The comments of Randy Ripplinger’s, Granite High School spokesperson, are as follows: “This is a societal problem that is just absolutely huge. We plead for community support on this issue. We have many community councils in our school district that work with us on this, but the homes of the families have got to get involved and realize that they can’t wait until the kids are teenagers to start talking to their kids about drugs.”
Perhaps we are blind and arrogant, and we deny what’s really going on behind the eyes of our kids. Instead of parents spending the necessary time to raise their children, it has become acceptable to depend on technology, day cares facilities, and schools to raise them instead. The end result is failure.
I remember believing that my parents didn’t care what happened to me as long as I got decent grades in school, and I didn’t get arrested. The one time I was arrested, they allowed the court to deal with me. They believed the traditional, old-school sentiment, “Children should be seen and not heard.” I had the feeling if I were to go to jail or die, they would simply say, “Well that’s what you get for breaking the law.” And while it is true that my mistakes lead me to be accountable for my actions, considering the root causes of those actions offers me answers.
In my case, I wanted a sign that I was appreciated: a hug; a letter; or reassurance that I was more than an accidental birth, instead of being a reason for my parents to get married, or receive a tax break. The way I saw it, I would rather they have my parents hate me, because at least then they’d show me some type of attention. I believe, its for why a lot of kids turn to drugs is because of a lack of parental attention — because drugs fulfill that their need for attention and/or love.
I see that we fail to pass down our own adolescent experiences to our children, the things we’ve witnessed in the drug cultures of our time, as well as positive coping mechanisms to that help being a teen a little easier in this day and age.
As parents, legal guardians, and mentors, we are the admired by our children. We are their heroes and sometimes their enemies, but most importantly, we are the gateways to the beginnings and ends of their days here. We have an opportunity to provide them with something powerful: knowledge and information to help guide them through troublesome times and to allow them to see that there are other options, besides drug use.
If you feel that you don’t have enough information to help your children become stronger people without having to hide behind drugs, you can contact physicians, check out community programs, or look on the Internet to learn more. It is imperative that you show your children you love them and limit your ridicule to their mistakes as we all are allowed to make mistakes; it is through our unconditional love for our children that they see they can correct their faults. If we educate ourselves, we can teach others through our example, especially those closest to us, our kids.
We are a generation of technological and instant gratifications fiends. We are constantly searching for that perfect escape, whether it is financial success, drugs, or composing articles to make people think, we are always searching for peace of mind.
Kids are curious, especially when something is forbidden; they want to know why, and sometimes they think they know what is best, and sometimes they do. In the cases of these five children who overdosed so young, they were crying out for attention, and I believe we need to change our focus to what their home life was like for them. I believe that when something as dramatic as a drug overdose occurs, there are core issues that need to be addressed because there isn’t a school or government official who can answer “why?” for you. You are the parents, and you are responsible for your children and the items you keep in your home. Unfortunate situations like these can be avoided if we take the time to listen to what our children are actually saying.