Sheriff’s department warns against stimulant use
On April 23, 2005 Ryan Morgan, age 17 and Corey Carlson, age 19 were found dead in the Morgan family home in the 3700 block of Toad Lake Road, east of Bellingham. An investigation conducted at the scene of the deaths resulted in the discovery of significant quantities of dextromethorphan.
The results of toxicology tests ordered by the Whatcom County medical examiner’s office recently revealed that both individuals had lethal levels of dextromethorphan in their bodies and the causes of death were attributed to the ingestion of this drug in combination with marijuana, caffeine and taurine from the sports drink, Red Bull.
Dextromethorphan is a synthetic analogue of codeine and is an ingredient in some over the counter cough mixtures. This chemical has increased in popularity as a recreational drug and is particularly popular with high school teens and young adults.
When consumed without medical indication in the wrong doses or used in combination with other drugs or alcohol, it can cause sudden death from accidental overdose. There are also reported issues of adverse reactions including acute psychosis, allergic disease and other problems. Other effects from the over ingestion of dextromethorphan abuse may slur speech, hyper excitability, lethargy, sweating, hypertension and hallucinations.
The dextromethorphan discovered at the scene of the deaths was present in a large wholesale quantity that was obtained over the internet, not from over the counter medications.
During the course of the sheriff’s office investigation into the deaths, it was concluded that a number of young people in the community have in recent months, experimented with this drug. In 2001, the Whatcom County medical examiner’s office attributed the death of an 18-year-old Bellingham man to an adverse reaction to dextromethorphan that lead to his death by homicide in a failed attempt of friends to restrain him. It also reported that last January, a local teenager was treated at St. Joseph Hospital for a near fatal accidental overdose of the drug. Two other teens also accidentally overdosed on dextromethorphan in March of 2005 and were treated at St. Joseph Hospital.
It is believed that the dextromethorphan ingested by the decedents was acquired through an internet sale from a pharmaceutical wholesaler in Indiana, Chemical API. Regulation of this drug falls within the jurisdiction of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As a result of information provided by the Whatcom County sheriff’s office, FDA agents seized 25 pounds of dextromethorphan from Chemical API. The operators of Chemical API admitted to federal investigators to shipping dextromethorphan following sales consummated over the internet. Information gathered during the investigation is being reviewed by the United States attorney’s office in Indiana.
Whatcom County sheriff’s office and the Whatcom
County medical examiner’s office want
to stress to the community the extreme dangers
associated with the abuse of dextromethorphan.
Sheriff Bill Elfo said, “Parents
need to talk to their children and warn them
of the dangers associated with this drug and
the unscrupulous individuals who ruthlessly
make it available over the internet.” Parents
should also monitor the behavior of their children
and watch for:
-Sudden and extreme changes in personality
-Eating habits changing dramatically, especially if they are less interested in eating
-Excessive secrecy about their computer use
-The receipt of unusual mail or mail without return addresses
-Interests in obtaining private mailboxes.
The Whatcom County sheriff’s office is continuing to investigate this matter and will present its findings to the Whatcom County prosecuting attorney’s office.
Mr. Dennis Morgan and Mrs. Stephanie Morgan, parents of Ryan Morgan, are committed to educating other families about the dangers of dextromethorphan.