Safety Health Tips From Walnut Creek Police Department

Written tips by: Officer Raquel Cantillon

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Cough & Cold Medicine Abuse

It is that time of year again – cough and cold season.  With that in mind, plus a recent “rumor” of “codeine” abuse, I though it best to educate the Northgate community about cough and cold medicine abuse.

When taken as instructed, cough and cold medicines can be safe and effective.  However, several cough and cold medicines contain ingredients that are psychoactive (mind-altering) when taken in higher-than-recommended dosages, and some people may abuse them.
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 Two commonly abused cough and cold medicines are:

1.  Cough syrups and capsules containing dextromethorphan (DXM)

  • DXM is available over-the-counter (OTC) – meaning they can be bought without a perscription
  • DXM acts on the same brain cell receptors as drugs like ketamine or PCP
  • A single high dose of DXM can cause hallucinations
  • Ketamine and PCP are called “dissociative” drugs, which means they make you feel separated from your body or your environment, and they twist the way you think or feel about something or someone
  • DXM abuse can cause lack of coordination, numbness, feeling sick to the stomach, increased blood pressure, and faster heartbeat.  In rare instances when DXM is taken with decongestants the lack of oxygen to the brain can result in lasting brain damage

2.   Promethazine-codeine cough syrup

  • Promethazine-codeine cough syrups are prescription medications
  • Codeine attaches to the same cell receptors as opioids like heroin
  • High doses of promethazine-codeine cough syrup can produce euphoria similar to that produced by other opioid drugs
  • Also, both codeine and promethazine depress activities in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), which produces calming effects
  • Promethazine-codeine cough syrup can cause slowed heart rate, slowed breathing, and high doses can lead to overdose and death

Teens sometimes throw “pill parties” or “skittles parties” which is a party where a bunch of teenagers or young adults get together with random pills (usually taken from parents medicine cabinets), they put all of the pills into a bowl/pile, and everyone takes a few random pills.  Obviously, this is extremely dangerous.

I hope that you will assist me, the Northgate staff, and your students by having an open dialogue about the proper usage of over the counter and prescription medication.  It is my goal that your students have a safe and secure place in which they can learn, every day.  It is my hope that we can all work together in order to accomplish this.

Officer Raquel Cantillon
Walnut Creek Police Department
School Resource Officer
(925) 943-5899 x7654

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