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GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels is cracking down on over-the-counter drug sales to minors after authorities caught six teenagers abusing the products.

In a command message last month, the Hohenfels commander, Lt. Col. Gary Bloomberg, said the teenagers abused nonprescription cold medicines containing dextromethorphan as well as the product “Dust Off” — a spray used for cleaning electronic equipment.

“In the past month we have had six students in the high school who have been sent home for use of over-the-counter drugs and two of these students were sent to the hospital as victims of an overdose,” Bloomberg said in the message.

The drug cases came to light after teachers noticed children behaving strangely or showing up for class with bright red eyes, Hohenfels High School assistant principle Candice Wojciechowsky said Wednesday.

When the students were sent to the school nurse, she quickly found out about the drug abuse, Wojciechowsky said.

The teenage drug abusers favor cocktails of several cold medicines, she said. Many believe the drugs are safe because they are sold without prescriptions, but they can be deadly, she said.

“You can die. It can cause heart arrhythmia and some pretty major things. We are trying to keep that from happening,” Wojciechowsky said.

Officials met with every class to discuss the problem and warning letters were sent to parents, she said.

“It is a problem we are aggressively addressing. We are working with the commander to get a handle on what the students are doing and how they are getting the drugs,” she said.

To help address the problem, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and the Defense Commissary Agency will no longer sell certain products to dependent children under the age of 20, Bloomberg said.

“Restricting sales in our facilities will not solve this problem alone. It will take your involvement. Abuse of over-the-counter drugs is an extremely serious issue that I ask your support in helping to prevent before a community member is accidentally killed or seriously injured,” he said.

Parents should talk to children about over-the-counter drug use and be aware that they may have some of the harmful drugs in their homes, he added.

Wojciechowsky said the school is not interested in punishing the drug abusers but hopes to get them help. The students who were caught have been referred to the school’s alcohol and drug counselor and a psychologist, she said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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