by Ha Nguyen
Bui Thi Thuoc in HCM City is worried that her eighth-grade daughter will become a drug addict.
"My friends told me to take the pills so I could feel very light and comfortable, even feel no pain when someone pinched me," Thuoc said her daughter told her.
She wasn't talking about an illegal drug, but about Recotus, a cough medicine that HCM City students are increasingly using recreationally - not only for getting high, but also for looking ill so that they can skip class. In 2009, many students at Tran Quoc Tuan Secondary School (District 7), Ngo Sy Lien Secondary School (Tan Binh District) and Khanh Hoi A Secondary School were caught with the addictive substance. Today, it continues to be a problem at many educational institutions.
"I was very afraid, so I reported the case to Lu Gia Secondary School," said Thuoc.
After hearing Thuoc's report, the school discovered a group of eighth-grade students with glassy eyes and slurred speech.
"Checking their bags, we discovered Recotus. It was the first time we'd ever seen a case like this," school reactor Thai Minh Phu said.
School managers warned students not to take the pills and immediately held a meeting with parents and teachers to inform them about the situation.
Administrators at Tang Bat Ho Secondary School in District 4 also had to meet with parents after discovering seven female students with the cough medicine in their bags.
Huynh Thi Muoi, sitting at a teashop in front of the school with a group of friends, said another girl had encouraged them to take the pills: "It gives you a strange feeling, really excited, but more importantly, you look ill so the teacher won't call on you!"
Muoi said that when some of her friends said they didn't want to take the medicine, they were beaten up. One girl was forced to buy two tablets for VND5,000 each and distribute them to other students.
More than 20 students at Binh An Secondary School in District 2 took the pills. As a result, four were hospitalised with convulsions.
Some of the students claimed to have been told they would be kicked out of the group if they did not take the medicine.
"They ingest these tablets without knowing anything about the side effects. They just want to get high and avoid being examined by teachers," said Luc Pham Quynh Nhi of Dinh Thien Ly Secondary School.
In Nhi's view, concrete punishments for selling and buying such medicines in schools were urgently needed.
If taken in proper dosage, Rocotus reduces pain and is not very addictive, said Dr Truong Van Tuan, chairman of the City's Pharmaceutical Association. However, taking two or three tablets at the same time could be dangerous and four or more could result in death.
Nguyen Van Vinh, head of the City's Heath Department's Pharmaceutical Management Office, said the department had sent documents to districts urging authorities to step up management of Recotus and other addictive medicines.
"We will continue reminding pharmacies not to sell them to teens," Vinh said.
Meanwhile, schools and families should take measures to educate students on the dangers of such medicines, he said. — VNS