Nebraska State Patrol Lt. Dennis Leonard says it’s not a fad: kids abusing over-the-counter drugs and consuming them with alcohol.
“It happens I think with much more frequency than we’re aware of,” said Leonard.
Leonard says a recent case in Aurora highlights the real danger. He explains that four teens brought cold medicine from home, shoplifted allergy meds, then had Ryan Mead – a homeless man in Grand Island – buy them alcohol.
They went home and got high, something Leonard says they and friends had done before, but this time all were hospitalized – one of them life-flighted to Omaha – after overdosing.
“The recreational use of the antihistamines by themselves is pretty dangerous, but then when you introduce alcohol with that, you have a synergistic effect as you do with many other types of drugs when you consume them at the same time as alcohol,” explained Leonard.
Substance abuse experts say kids think those kinds of drugs are safe because they’re over-the-counter. But they’re not when taken like this.
“You’re maybe getting high doses of that [dextromethorphan] DXM, the medicine that’s giving you the high, but there’s also a lot of other medicines in there that can cause damage to your liver and other organs,” says Michelle Schultz, coordinator of the Grand Island Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition.
The Aurora teens used a designated driver, and called 911 even though they knew they’d be in trouble – two things law enforcement commends. However, they worry Nebraska kids aren’t hearing how dangerous over-the-counter abuse is.
“I think that we’ve been effective in getting messages out to the community, getting messages out to young people, but we sometimes focus so much on one message that we forget about the others,” said Leonard.
Leonard’s message to parents: be vigilant beyond prescription or illegal drugs.
Experts say to look for missing medicine or unusual amounts laying around the house or car.
“In the pharmacy too, and you see kids buying a large amount of these medicines - just be aware of the problems that are associated with it,” added Schultz.
“We had one incident, let’s do what we can as a community or as communities here in central Nebraska to minimize the chance or the opportunities for it to happen again,” said Leonard.
Ryan Mead is still in the Hall County Jail facing charges of procuring and felony child abuse.
The teenagers have all recovered, and are charged in Hamilton County as minors in consumption.
Over the counter cold pills and alcohol just don't mix, and the Nebraska State Patrol says poor decisions put four Aurora kids in the hospital.
The State Patrol says five kids from Aurora came to Grand Island on April 19, where they apparently asked a homeless man to buy booze for them.
Lt. Dennis Leonard said kids mixed alcohol with cough and cold medicine.
Not only did it land them in trouble, it landed them in the hospital. Leonard said one was in rough shape and was air lifted to Children's Hospital in Omaha.
Four others were taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney.
Leonard said all the kids were between 15 and 17. The State Patrol cited four teens for minor in consumption in Hamilton County Court. One was referred to the county attorney for shoplifting antihistamines.
The State Patrol learned the teens asked a 29-year-old transient named Ryan Mead to purchase alcohol for them. He was arrested for procuring alcohol and unintentional child abuse.
And while Leonard said the kids made poor choices to drink and then mix alcohol with medicine, he was surprised to learn one student acted as a designated driver. Leonard said the message about not driving while impaired had gotten through to these kids, but that it shows there are other consequences to this kind of behavior.
He asks parents to watch if their teens have cough syrup, antihistamines, and other similar medicine, especially if their kids have not been suffering from a cold or cough. That could be a warning sign that over-the-counter drugs are being misused.