Five students who attend two high schools in Marin County have been hospitalized in the last two weeks because of overdosing on cough medication, a school administrator told NBC Bay Area on Wednesday.
Three students at Tamalpais High School ingested too much Coricidin, found in cough syrup, and were discovered in class, and two students at Drake High School also overdosed on cough medication at a school dance about a week and half ago, according to Tamalpais Union High School District Senior Director of Student Services Wes Cedros. The youngest student was a 9th grader, Cedros said. The others were 10th and 11th graders.
All the students have now been treated and released from the hospital and referred to counseling, Cedros said.
Cedros called the two cases an "alarming wake up" call. Some students were surprised, too.
"I'm really surpised," said Tamalpais High student Katie Pile. "I didn't know it was such a serious issue."
Tam High Principal Julie Synyard thought it was serious enough to send an email to parents on Tuesday.
"As a school community we all need to be very aware of this issue because an overdose can result in death," Synyard wrote.
Tam High parent Susan Durham said she didn't know what was going on, but called the situation an "epidemic of parents not spending enough time with their kids."
Coricidin, also referred to as “Triple C” or “Skittles,” is a commonly abused over-the-counter cough and cold medication containing the active ingredient dextromethorphan or DXM. When taken in large quantities, the drug causes a high that produces hallucinations and a sense of dissociation. The side effects of Coricidin abuse can result in vomiting, poor motor control, dizziness, impaired judgment and dilated pupils,seizure, coma and death, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Coricidin abuse has been on the rise, nationally, Synyard wrote, for the past few years and part of the reason is that it is relatively easy to obtain. Many teens take the drug straight from the medicine cabinet at home, steal it from the store or receive it from another teen, she said, asking parents to start a dialogue with their teens about Triple C.
The principal's letter coincidentally coincides with an announcement out of Marin County regarding new guidelines for doctors to stem prescription drug overdoses.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Dr. Matt Willis, who serves as the county's public health officer, said there's a drug overdose death in Marin County every two weeks. Doctors are also prescribing pain medications at an unprecedented rate, Willis said, which prompted him to send out a public health advisory to every doctor in the county. The number of narcotics prescribed in Marin County doubled between 2004 and 2014.
Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in Marin County, and the majority are due to prescription drugs, he said.
Trey Lagomarsino, 23, overdosed on codeine cough syrup two years ago when he and a friend were mixing codeine with soda for kicks.
"He took too much one night and went to sleep and never woke up," his mother, Susan Kim said.
Kim hopes said she hopes doctors and parents heed the warning.
"Every day, all day long. It never goes away," Kim said. "Time is not going to heal it. You just have to deal with it."