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What Parents and Teens Should Know About Pharm Parties

Various prescription pills scattered across a white counter

Imagine a group of teenagers who have gathered at someone’s home on a Saturday night. No parents or other adults are there, but alcohol and marijuana are both present. The teens are gathered around a large table with a bowl in the middle.

Then some of them produce prescription pill bottles and start dumping them into the bowl. When they finish, the bowl is full of pills and capsules of various shapes and colors. The teens then grab several pills and swallow them at the same time, then wait to see what kind of “high” they experience.

It Is a Pharm Party – Or Is It?

This scene describes what is known as a “pharm party” (or a Skittles party, in reference to the multicolored candies), and the drugs that are consumed come from the medicine cabinets which are accessible to teens in their homes. Given the myriad of possible side effects and the increased probability of overdoses that result from taking multiple types of medications at once, the outcome can easily be catastrophic or even deadly.

Here is the caveat: though many law enforcement agencies, drug abuse facilities, and health advocates have sounded the alarm over pharm parties for years, there is scant evidence that they actually exist in real life. The only anecdotal indicators are secondhand reports from treatment facility personnel who claim that their patients have attended these parties. However, no one can seem to find firsthand accounts of pharm parties or police reports which allude to them.

Prescription Drug Abuse IS Real

Real or not, these stories spring from two teen behaviors that are all too common these days:

1. Their willingness to experiment with drugs

2. The accessibility of prescription medications in their homes

Pharm parties may or may not be a “thing,” but what is undeniable is the collection of research that documents prescription drug abuse by American adolescents. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that prescribed medications are the most frequently abused drug by teens (save for alcohol and marijuana); and that every hour, more than 100 U.S. kids aged 12 to 17 abuse a prescription drug for the first time.

A common scenario involves a teenager looking through a medicine cabinet at his or her home and stealing opioids (like Oxycodone), stimulants (like Ritalin), depressants (like Valium), insomnia medications (like Ambien), or even cough suppressants (like Robitussin). Then the teen meets up with his or her friends and they all get high on the pilfered drugs.

Prescription Medication Abuse Prevention

Given the high potential for abuse, it is imperative that parents take proactive measures to prevent their teenaged children from obtaining these drugs, such as:

  • Keep all medications that are prescribed for other family members secured so that they cannot be stolen.
  • Discard any unused medications, such as pain pills which were prescribed for a previous injury or condition.
  • If a child in the home takes prescription medications for pain, ADHD, or another condition, make sure that a parent is in charge of distributing those medications instead of allowing the child to take the drugs on his or her own.
  • Keep a watchful eye on all medications and look for signs that pill bottles are becoming empty before they are scheduled to be refilled.
  • Remain vigilant in observing your teen for signs of drug abuse, such as depression, change in appetite, irritability, or sudden withdrawal from friends and activities.

To be sure, keeping prescription medications away from your teenagers at home can be a tall order. Because of the prevalence of medicine cabinet drug abuse in America and the calamitous effects of the unauthorized use of these medications, it is vital that parents take this issue seriously to protect their teens from succumbing to substance abuse.

If you believe your teen is abusing prescription medications, contact us at Next Generation Village to see how we can help.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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