DAD’S WARNING Teen overdoses on painkiller given to him by schoolmate
News of Tramadol issue comes as principals try to deal with problem
A teenager overdosed on nine prescription pills another student gave him at school.
The student’s father said he was unaware the use of prescription drugs at schools was an issue until his son took the drug — the powerful painkiller Tramadol — because he was “bored with school”.
“Seeing my son like he was and then being told he had dodged a bullet by both the paramedics and the doctor in ED, was such a scary thing to hear.”
A Lakes District Health Board spokeswoman confirmed a 16-yearold was admitted to Rotorua hospital, treated and discharged at the end of September.
The father, who spoke on the condition that his son and the school were not identified, said he was shocked when an emergency department nurse told him prescription drug abuse was widespread among high schools.
“To hear it’s just glossed over by some kids saying ‘everyone’s doing it’ was also a shock. My kid is fine now, he has had a big wake-up call, and is heading back in the right direction with the support of a lot of people, which we appreciate so much.”
The man, who works in the emergency services, said the outcome could have been worse.
“I have witnessed first-hand the results of people who use synthetic cannabis, and what it can do to you, but prescription drugs now seem to be the go-to drugs to get high among school kids. They are prescription for a reason.”
Medsafe advises that overdosing on Tramadol can lead to seizures, slow and ineffective breathing, and coma.
John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh said he had “been advised that about two to three teenagers are admitted to Rotorua Hospital a week as a result of overdosing” across all schools. He said in talking to other secondary school principals, it appeared to be a national problem.
“Prescription medications such as Tramadol are often easily accessible at home where they have been legitimately prescribed to someone in the family,” Walsh said.
“They are a form of opiate but the consequences of taking them in high doses are seizures, coma and death,” he said. “We have advised seniors of the risks in doing this.”
Rotorua Girls’ High School principal Ally Gibbons said staff in the school’s wellness centre had been told about the issue of teenagers abusing prescribed medication in the last week of Term 3.
“I am aware of the issue and students are being seen by groups of professionals who specialise in this area on an as-needs basis or one-toone
Used to relieve moderate to severe
pain and is only available with a doctor’s prescription.
Side effects include dizziness and
fatigue, constipation, nausea, sweating and dry mouth.
Can cause muscle weakness,
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for rashes, swelling of the face or lips, chest tightness, heart palpitations, hallucinations or convulsions. basis.
“As health is not taught at all levels it is hard to incorporate the whole student population in issues such as this and assemblies are not the appropriate arena, however all of our wellness centre staff are asking appropriate questions and educating and referring where necessary.”
Gibbons said students and parents were welcome to go to the school and wellness centre if they had concerns, or to access any outside agency’s help.
Rotorua Boys’ High School principal Chris Grinter said news of the issue had come as a “major shock”.
“[The school] has not had to respond to any student misuse of Tramadol. To hear that this might be an issue in some schools locally comes as a major shock.
“We do however continually explore ways we can better support our boys in terms of their health and wellness and we accept this as one of our biggest challenges at this time.”
The Ministry of Health couldn’t provide specific information about overdoses because they were coded as accidental poisonings, but said Lakes DHB provided an Opioid Substitution Treatment service to reduce the harms of opioid dependence.
Roughly 100 people are in the service across the DHB. It is offered in Rotorua, Turangi, Mangakino and Taupo¯.
Caleb Putt, a social worker with Sorted, Bay of Plenty District Health Board’s youth alcohol and drugs service, said few young people had issues with prescription drugs.
“Addiction to prescription drugs or misuse of prescription drugs for purposes of getting high is relatively uncommon in our youth population, although it does happen.”