Who should regulate over-the-counter medication?

The students

by Stephanie Dossett

From ibuprofen for migraines to allergy medicine for a stuffy nose, there are a variety of over-the-counter medications that students may need during the school day. According to district policy, all medications, prescription or not, must be kept in the nurse’s office and students must have an Authorization for Medication form filled out to use them. While this makes sense for prescription medications, students should be allowed to self-carry over-the-counter medicine at school.

First of all, the current rules aren’t enforced, as many students bring medications to school for minor health issues, and they aren’t reprimanded for it. Not enforcing the policy of no self-carrying sets a precedent for students that breaking rules won’t really result in consequences. Even though some over-the-counter medications can be dangerous in excess, high school students should be taught to safely and responsibly self-carry and administer these commonly used medicines. Despite the lack of enforcement of policies on self-carry, basic medication safety should be thoroughly covered in health classes at school so students who choose to take these medications can ensure that they know how to properly use them.

Over half of the school’s population likely gets menstrual cramps once a month, and even with the current restrictions on medications, many female students bring ibuprofen, Tylenol or Advil in their backpacks. While it’s true that these medications can be harmful when taken in excess, nobody wants the embarrassment or hassle of asking to go to the nurse twice a day just to get relief from their cramps. In any case, unless a student already has painkillers registered and waiting in the health room, the nurse cannot provide them with any. It’s just not practical to store individual medicine in the health room that is only needed for one week each month — especially when half of the school likely uses it.

In addition, students with colds or sore throats shouldn’t have to go to the nurse every time they need a decongestant. Frequent trips to the nurse for mild medications waste valuable class time as well as hinder the nurse’s ability to attend to other, potentially more serious, medical issues. While some painkillers and cold medications can be addictive, these medications are all for minor health issues. In fact, cough drops and over-the-counter painkillers are readily available at grocery and drug stores — and probably in bathroom cupboards of homes — so they shouldn’t pose any more of a danger to other students tucked into a backpack than on the shelves. Letting students have access to allergy medicine or Advil in class would limit the disruption to the rest of the class and allow students to quickly return to their work.

While schools should continue to carefully regulate prescription medications for the safety and well-being of students, it is simply more practical to allow students to self-carry over-the-counter medicine at school. This would decrease classroom interruptions due to nurse visits, allow students relief from cramps or sore throats without the hassle of retrieving medication from the nurse’s office and alleviate students’ embarrassment from just taking care of their basic needs.

The school

by Stephanie Dossett

For many schools, drug use and possession are already prevalent and serious issues. Policies that do not allow students to self-carry any type of medicine — over-the-counter or prescription — are in place for rational and well-advised reasons. There are also established procedures concerning the regulation of medicine that has been proven effective in keeping schools and students safe. Instead of allowing free self-carry in schools, students should fill out the proper forms and go through the correct channels to get medication from the nurse. It is much more sensible to keep over-the-counter medication regulated by the nurse and other school officials in order to prevent misuse or any serious incidents.

Most significantly, allowing students to self-carry medication lessens school security. If students were allowed to carry medicine on their own into school, it is very possible that potentially dangerous prescription drugs could be smuggled in through over-the-counter containers. Without strict security measures in place, this would open up the school to the spread of controlled substances. Furthermore, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, some over-the-counter drugs are abused and are considered gateway drugs to addiction. Allowing such medications into schools without rules would cause numerous issues in which the safety of students would be at risk. The hassle that instating regulations would require far outweighs any benefits that stem from allowing the self-carry of medication.

Moreover, even at the high school age, students often aren’t responsible enough to bring medication on their own. This is due to strict regulations on doses for each person, which can greatly differ based on the type of medication. Getting these amounts wrong and taking more than the recommended dose can be very serious, even for over-the-counter medicine. For example, an acetaminophen (Tylenol) overdose can lead to liver damage, and in some critical cases, death. Even if students are aware of the proper dosage for their own use, allowing the medication to be self-carried poses the risk of it being stolen by or shared with someone who may not be aware of the correct dosage. Therefore, the safety of students is better protected when the school directly controls the distribution of all medications.

While it is true that allowing self-carry of over-the-counter medicine would be far more convenient, the safety of the general student body should come first. Students who use over-the-counter medication often aren’t in dire need. Additionally, if any incidents related to misuse of medication were to occur on campus, the school would have to take liability for it. In order to preserve the safe atmosphere of the school and to protect students from being subject to the potential risks that come with allowing self-carry, medications should remain controlled by the nurse and school officials.