The Dangers of Pharm Parties

Seven of the top ten drugs being abused by teenagers today are legal prescriptions or over-the-counter medications. And with the prevalence of teen prescription drug abuse comes a new kind of dangerous social gathering: “pharm parties,” where teens bring different varieties of prescription pills to a party, dump them in a bowl, and then grab handfuls and swallow them as if they were candy.

“Teens will raid their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinet, take OxyContins, Percocets, Valiums, Xanax, and get together with their friends,” explains Mary Rieser, Executive Director of the Atlanta Recovery Center Drug Rehab in Georgia. “They will mix and match their drugs, which is of course very dangerous. Soon they become drug addicts and this starts the dwindling spiral. Parents can’t figure out what happened.”

It’s far too easy for teens to get their hands on dangerous prescription drugs. According to a 2005 survey by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, 19% of U.S. teenagers (about 4.5 million) had taken prescription stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall or painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin for the purpose of getting high. According to a University of Michigan study, Vicodin and OxyContin are now more popular among high school seniors than cocaine and Ecstasy, beat out only by marijuana.

“While prescription drugs can be a God-send for someone who is sick, all too often these are misplaced or abused not only by the person, but by members of their family,” says Rieser. “Unfortunately there is a myth among youngsters that these are not harmful drugs, as they were prescribed by the doctor, and Mom or Dad took them, so they can’t be all bad. This kind of mindset among adolescents can kill them. They become drug addicts and ruin their lives.”

Here are some tips for preventing prescription drug abuse in your home:

1. Keep careful track of all prescription medications, and dispose of unused or expired medication properly.
2. Keep your prescriptions locked up.
3. Educate your children about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and illicit drug abuse.
4. Be aware of the signs of drug abuse in your family.
5. Communicate with your children, making sure you know where they’re going, who their friends are, and what is happening in their lives.

“Adolescence can be a difficult time for children,” says Rieser. “If children don’t have someone they can talk to, someone they can trust, it is all too easy to go down the wrong path.”

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Vicodin addiction often starts innocently enough. Most people start taking Vicodin or other pain medications after surgery or an injury. But then they can’t stop. They need more to get the same pain relief. They start doctor shopping to get more pills. And the cycle continues until it takes over their lives.