NewsBriefs BUTTONS

14 Teens Hospitalized After Overdosing on Prescription Muscle Relaxant at Dance


March-April 1997

Teenagers at a dance meant to keep them off the streets at the Boys and Girls Club in Woburn, Massachusetts, nine miles northwest of Boston, overdosed on baclofen, a prescription muscle relaxant. As a result, 14 were in hospitals the next day, 10 of them in critical condition (Associated Press, "Teens in Hospital After Overdosing At Dance Party," Washington Post, March 2, 1997, p. A3; Judy Rakowsky, "Youth to Face Drug, Larceny Charges," Boston Globe, March 5, 1997, p. B2).

Some of the victims, mostly teenage girls ages 13 to 16, who were celebrating their selection for the cheerleading squad, had taken up to 35 pills, washed down with water, soft drinks and beer. Witnesses say the victims were collapsing, foaming at the mouth, passing out, vomiting, and could not be woken up. (Baclofen (brand name Lioresal®) is used in the treatment of cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis, relieving symptoms of flexor spasms, pain, clonus and muscular rigidity. Dosage usually begins at 5 mg twice daily. 10 mg and 20 mg tablets are available. Higher doses can produce euphoria or intoxication. Large doses can cause respiratory failure, resulting in death.)

Police and ambulances arrived at the dance after being called when two teenagers were discovered passed out. Tom Reilly, Middlesex County District Attorney, said, "Obviously, these kids didn't know what they were in for." At least two of the teens could have died, had not officials called their homes after they left the party, suspecting that they had taken the drug. All of the teenagers have been released from the hospital.

Reilly said a 14-year-old girl, who was one of the fourteen girls hospitalized, will be summoned to Woburn District Court. She is expected to be charged with drug distribution and larceny offenses, police said. The girl allegedly stole a box containing a bottle of baclofen and a bottle of the infection-fighting drug Hiprex® from a neighbor. At the dance, she handed out about 180 of the baclofen pills.