Wasted at the Wal-Mart

Hot on the trail of North Olmsted’s Dramamine junkies

Shrek Featuring the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow
Today's youth is the future of this country, and let's just hope that future doesn't come from North Olmsted.

That's the word from Wal-Mart near Great Northern Mall, which is experiencing a rash of thefts of -- get this -- Dramamine. The motion sickness drug is an antihistamine, which means that, when crushed and snorted, it can be used as a low-rent hallucinogen. "They've been stealing the eight-count pocket carriers," says pharmacist Tania Bierly. "We're finding the empty containers throughout the store."

Recreational deployment of over-the-counter drugs has long been popular among those who fund their pleasures on lawn-mowing wages. Dramamine users report seeing imaginary spiders, ant colonies, and "big snaky things."

But there is a considerable downside. "You would have to take a tremendous amount," says a West Side task force agent. That means anywhere from 8 to 28 pills, which is like snorting the contents of a grain elevator.

Worse, it's not even a quality high, says Bierly. "It's gonna make them feel real floaty, and then it's going to make them go to sleep. It's just going to ruin their night." There's also the minor issue of heart damage.

Whether Dramamine use is widespread is anyone's guess. North Olmsted police say they've made no arrests, and counselors at the local high school referred questions to Principal Todd Alles, who artfully dodged The Edge's calls. Police forces across the West Side say they've seen cases involving Ritalin, Comtrex, and various cold and allergy medicines, but not Dramamine.

This doesn't surprise Brad Price, a clinical director for Glenbeigh rehab centers. "Certain chemicals will be in fashion for a while, then fall out of fashion. To a certain degree, there's a stylist element involved. You'll notice that particular patterns only relate to one school district."

And perhaps one pharmacy. Because of Wal-Mart's size, traffic, and lax security, it's something of a shoplifter's paradise. Which has forced the store to move Dramamine behind the counter. An agent with the West Shore Enforcement Bureau says none of the 47 other pharmacies he deals with have reported problems. His more pressing challenge is the abuse of Robitussin. "Kids are drinking the hell outta that stuff."

But use of over-the-counters shouldn't be mistaken for enlarged stupidity in the youthful gene pool. Baby Boomers were known to smoke banana peels and morning glory seeds. The native call of the young, the agent reminds us, is to test humankind's capacity for the moronic.

And though Dramamine can cause "significant brain damage or death," says Bierly, "I think they'd fall asleep before that."

Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court is a place where a lot of difficult questions have to be answered. Does a kid go to jail? Does a parent lose custody of a child?

A couple of weeks ago, however -- even amid the attention surrounding the alleged murder of an eight-week-old infant by her 13-year-old father -- there was no question more vexing to the folks around the court than this: Had Judge John W. Gallagher, a convivial Republican who's been on the bench since 1992, well . . . ummm . . . croaked?

Seems word of Gallagher's unfortunate demise had been bouncing around the building for some time. By last week, the tale had spread to the point where two people called Gallagher's chambers to offer their condolences -- though one lawyer seemed more interested in scoping out the vacant seat than issuing his regrets.

Alas, he'll have to wait. After a lengthy investigation by The Edge -- we called his office -- it was discovered that Gallagher had not, in fact, expired.

"Everything is fine. I'm still alive," says the judge, sounding fit and surprisingly cheerful for someone who's supposed to be groveling before St. Peter.

Gallagher has no idea how the rumor started, but the sometimes prickly atmosphere among the court's six judges may offer a clue. Perhaps, Gallagher speculates, someone simply overheard one of the other judges praying.

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