Over-the-counter drug subject to teen use, abuse

Jeremy Browning

Craig Police are trying to raise awareness among parents and school personnel about an over-the-counter drug commonly being abused by youth nationwide.

Police say people who interact with youth should pay special attention to the words, “Triple C, CCC, Red Devils or Orange Crush.”

According to police, these words have special meaning among youth involved in the drug abuse trend. The trend is particularly prevalent among young people ages 11 to 13.

“The cold medications, ‘Coricidin Cough and Cold,’ Robitussin cough syrup or any cold medication containing ‘dextromethorphan’ are being abused nationwide,” according to a report police issued Friday.

The medications are safe if the user adheres to the instructions. However, youth are ingesting “large amounts of the products in the pill form, avoiding the sugary liquid,” the report states.

“We’re trying to alert people to this new stuff that is out there,” Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said. “It would be worth paying attention to.”

Students at the junior high level in Craig are aware of the drug, according to School Resource Officer Carolyn Wade, a Craig police officer who works at Craig Middle School.

Wade intercepted notes passed between students, and those notes referenced the drug by the name, “Triple C.”

One student even explained to Wade what was meant by the term.

But Wade said the trend is more of a recycling of an older trend.

“This is not new,” Wade said. “Only the name is new.”

According to Wade, the abuse of the same family of drugs was common a few years ago and is resurfacing under a new set of colloquialisms.

The pills may be eaten or crushed into a powder and snorted.

Abuse of the cold medicine can be fatal. According to police, 14 deaths occurred in 2002 from the abuse of the medications. Abuse of the drug has also been associated with brain damage and other problems, police say.

Symptoms of abuse include hyper excitability, lethargy, loss of coordination, slurred speech, hypertension and involuntary eye movement.

“Parents should be aware of any medications that their children are in possession of and be alert to unusual reactions,” according to the police report. “Should they exhibit those reactions, they should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible.”

Parents should be especially aware “any time kids are hauling around cough medicine when they don’t seem to need it,” Wade said.

The popularity of the drug among younger students is associated with its availability, Wade said.

“Students at the upper levels usually get a hold of more dramatic drugs, such as alcohol, marijuana and meth,” Wade said. “This is so easy to get. All they have to do is go into the store and buy it.”

Since the drug is available over-the-counter, youth might think it is not dangerous, Wade said. But when ingested in large quantities, it can be life-threatening.

One of the notes Wade confiscated at the middle school referred to a student who became so sick the student was afraid of dying, which implies at least some youth in Craig are abusing the drug, according to Wade.

Vanatta said he became aware of the trend through one of the various national groups to which he belongs.

He distributed the information “in-house” to alert his officers to the situation. He got a response saying, “We’re seeing some of that here.”

School Resource Officer Jesse McAvoy, who works at the Moffat County High School, said he has not seen evidence of such activity.

The over-the-counter drugs are widely available and anyone can purchase them. The drugs commonly are being shoplifted, according to police.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or

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