Wednesday, March 17, 2010
This post is all over the place. At the end I have numerous links; links to articles and resources. For all I know, this issue will result in ongoing commentary from me right here on Middle School Health Esteem. I should be reading about standard deviation and z scores for my grad class, but this is important for me to post about.
Over the last month or so I've heard a lot about DXM, dextromethorphan. I was attending a district wide professional development class when a teacher from the high school in my district informed me about the increasing trend among our community of students abusing cough medicines. Last week, while in the middle of our seventh grade ATOD unit, I covered DXM and numerous other drugs in class. Then, an article appeared in the town newspaper, which was shortly followed by an article in the local, regional paper. The next logical step was for television media to get involved. This week the local ABC affiliate, WCVB in Boston, had a story on the evening news. The media was reporting on an increase in teenagers abusing cough medicines containing DXM.
Well, it's no secret now that I teach in Danvers, Massachusetts. Originally, I didn't want that to come out on here simply because anyone can read whatever I type here, and I don't have tenure yet. But, then I realized I really have nothing to hide, I'm promoting what I do in the classroom, and if anything, maybe we can get some conversations flowing about this issue and other issues too.
Abusing cough medicines with DXM has many negative health effects: impaired judgement, vomiting, hallucinations, dizziness, disorientation, etc. More information on DXM is linked below. Many medicines contain other ingredients that can be deadly in excess amounts as well. This post isn't really about DXM itself, but more about how Danvers is approaching this issue.
After I read the article in the regional paper, I e-mailed the director of Danvers CARES, a prevention coalition that always gets two huge thumbs up from me. I asked the director if she had any additional resources I could share with all of my students to educate them about DXM and prescription drug abuse in general. We only touch upon substance abuse in general terms in the seventh grade curriculum; they go more in depth in high school health (we focus on tobacco and alcohol). She responded with some great information that I've included below. I'm using them in some "teachable moments" coming up with all grade levels, because whenever a teachable moment exists I snag that opportunity!
It's also important to remember that DXM abuse is only one part of prescription drug and OTC drug abuse. It falls under that general umbrella, which encompasses abuse of anything from Oxycontin to diet pills. So, abuse of one drug is only one small part of a much larger issue.
We also don't really know how long this has been going on. National data about this type of behavior, according to the director of Danvers CARES, only goes back to 2006. What I do know is that we in Danvers are very lucky to have an organization like Danvers CARES to spearhead community involvement over this issue. Our police department visited all the local pharmacies to talk to the managers recently, and there is a round table discussion scheduled for next month with police officers, school officials, Danvers CARES representatives, and more. The purpose is to educate parents and citizens about the dangers of DXM abuse. I'm a big believer in involving parents in what goes in within a child's education, and I'm trying to add a little more of that each year in my own teaching. Providing these opportunities for parents to hear from people who know what they're talking about and to ask those questions is a great thing! Parents: please talk to your kids, and get them the facts.
Basically, many parts of the coordinated school health program that I'm a huge proponent of are working together on this issue. In order for any change to happen a huge effort is required; it looks like we're seeing that becoming reality here. Will it work? I hope so. Ultimately, it's up to the kids themselves to change their own behaviors. Ideally, it would be great to identify trends with risk behaviors before they happen. Unfortunately, that's not always realistic, and I'm not sure where that would even start. A reader comment I read on one of the newspaper articles online mentioned that when kids start using these types of drugs, that they have surpassed marijuana and are looking for something else. I don't know if that has any truth to it or not (anything posted online like that needs to be taken with a grain of salt), but if it is true than I'm scared to think about what could come next.
Check out the following resources below.
DXM Stories: Make Up Your Own Mind About Cough Medicine. Provides factual information, stories from former users, and news about cough medicine abuse. The site says all information is from reliable, medical research or from first hand accounts of former users.
Above The Influence: OTC Drugs. From the "abovetheinfluence" website.
*Note: The director of Danvers CARES mentioned that some of the following are produced by pharmaceutical companies. They have great information, but remember the course as you browse them. I used the Kids Health reference sheet in class this week, as an FYI.