9 St. Joseph middle school girls get sick after taking methadone pills

Thursday, March 20, 2008

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) -- Nine middle school girls were taken to a hospital Wednesday after taking what is believed to be methadone pills, and a 16-year-old boy was charged with distributing a controlled substance.

St. Joseph police Capt. Kevin Castle said the Benton High School student is believed to have given methadone -- a drug commonly used to treat heroin addiction -- to a junior high school girl on a school bus.

Police believe the girl then distributed the pills to other girls, most or all of them eighth-graders.

By late morning, the girls were nauseous and groggy, and at least one was salivating excessively, school administrators told the St. Joseph News-Press. Around noon, the girls were crying as they walked to ambulances, and one hysterical girl was taken from the school on a stretcher.

The girls were still at Heartland Regional Medical Center late Wednesday afternoon, where they were being kept for observation.

"It appears that the students are doing OK," Castle said.

Wednesday night, the teen suspected of providing the drugs was being held at a juvenile detention facility. Castle said officials are still trying to determine where he got the drugs.

School and police officials said it is unclear whether the girls knew what they were taking. Eight were taken by ambulance to the hospital, and the ninth was taken there by a parent.

All nine of the girls face school and police consequences, officials said.

District administrator Cheri Patterson sent a letter home with students discussing the situation.

"We would really like to encourage parents to take this wake-up call and talk to their children tonight," Patterson said. "Drugs, whether prescription or not prescription, are dangerous drugs. And as some of our students found out, you take a scary risk when you ingest them."

Kent Hamby, who went to the middle school Wednesday to pick up his son for a dental appointment, said he saw two ambulances, a fire truck and two police cars when he arrived.

"I don't understand this world today," he said, shaking his head when he heard what was going on. "The fights, the drugs."

Information from: St. Joseph News-Press, http://www.stjoenews-press.com

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