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The Truth About Pharm Parties

Updated on May 25, 2007

You may have heard the recent buzz about the term ‘Pharm Parties', which refers to a party where kids pilfer through Mom and Dad's medicine cabinet for any prescription medicines and then take them to a party to share with friends. Pharm is short for pharmaceuticals, not farm like the place where we used to sneak off with a keg of beer. While these parties were dangerous enough, today's teens have done us one better.

Is There Really Such A Thing as a Pharm Party?

There is some debate as to whether kids themselves are referring to these parties with the term Pharm Party, or if that is a media invention. The truth is that kids today have greater access to prescription medications than ever before simply because of the fact that these drugs are more widely available to the general public for whatever ails.

There have been several reports in the last few years of teen parties where kids consume handfuls of drugs without knowing what they're taking. Drug counselors across the country are now communicating with each other that these pill parties are becoming more prevalent in their local areas.

Supposedly the bowls and baggies of assorted drugs are referred to as trail mix. When kids take prescription drugs from home it's called pharming. The practice is sending kids to emergency rooms in record numbers suffering from deadly combinations of prescription medicines.

It’s Just Prescription Pills

Kids don't realize how dangerous the drugs are because they are not illegal and are prescribed by a doctor. In addition to widespread availability and ignorance, these kids have to contend with celebrity drug use portrayed in the media as normal coming of age behavior for young and beautiful people. Kids have this idea that prescription drugs represent an acceptable form of escape without the stigma of street drugs. And of course, they want to share.

As if it's not bad enough that kids are taking these drugs, the latest trend it seems is to combine them into ever more lethal concoctions. See this frightening article on prescription drug recipes.

Prescription Drugs Are Widely Available

Kids today can get their hands on practically anything. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America did a survey in 2005 that revealed 19% of U.S. teenagers (about 4.5 million) had taken prescription stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall, or painkillers 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.

Prescription Drug Use Not Just For Getting High

Kids are using prescription drugs for more than getting high. Kids are using stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall, that are legitimately used to treat attention disorders, to get an edge in testing or other academic work. And other kids are taking Xanax or other anxiety reducing drugs to self-treat their own anxiety or depression without medical supervision. They figure how bad could it be? It makes them feel better so they do it.

It's crucial for parents to be vigilant as well as to take a hard line. Kids can turn quickly from marijuana and beer to the greater high offered by strong painkillers. From there it's a hop, skip, and jump to heroin. Any of these harder drugs can hook kids the very first time - even if they take it by accident, something quite likely once they begin partying with fellow drug takers. Once they get into a situation where judgment is compromised, anything can happen.

A New Attitude About Medicine

The big drug companies aren't helping. Pretty advertising is affecting kids' attitudes toward drugs. When my eight-year-old asks for medicine when he can't fall asleep because he has seen the commercial with the pretty butterfly, I have an issue. It's just one more reason we need to monitor what kids are exposed to and make sure we're adding our parental two-cents to the messages they receive.

Teach your kids from an early age that medicine is not the answer to their problems. Set an example. Expect them to check with you before accepting any food, drink, candy, anything - from anyone. And then pray your child has enough luck and sense to stay away from drugs.


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  • WaismannMethod profile image

    WaismannMethod 2 years ago

    Just because pills are prescribed by a physician, does not mean they are safe for everyone. As prescription painkiller numbers increase, the chances of drug abuse is also prevalent. It’s important that the patient understands the risk involved.

    Cynthia Guerra

  • profile image

    hey 6 years ago

    I would think you would have a better chance of surving the night playing russuian roulette then gulping down a hand full of drugs

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    hey 6 years ago

    Are theses real or a media concoction to direct peoples attention away from the fact that prescrition med is being precribed to children and young adults,by force in some cases.

    Who controls the media?It is often reported that 50 Percent of marriage breakup.That was true for one year in the nineteen eighties.(ONE YEAR)but is now brought up as being every yea.Repeat over and over.A movie came out in the 90' in which teens were depicted lying in the middle of the road on a dare from friend while cars were coming from both direction. So it was report that a few dumb asses tried it.

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    6 years ago

    Jeez people. Wide spread abuse is caused by a lot of things. Whoever says "its just the kids fault" is an idiot. I'm 22 and I do several drugs recreationally. It's bad to do drugs at all I know, for me it's scary to know that I have an extremely addictive personality and fear I go overboard and develop a serious addiction one day. Now, I take most of the responsibly for my actions. There comes a time in everyone's life where you have to make your own decisions and can't blame anyone but yourself for the trouble you get into. BUT bad parenting, media glamorization, and peer pressure have the most impact on kids doing drugs. I bounced around from my dad to my grandmother to my mother growing up, each displaying and teaching me different values in life. My grandmother was the best. She taught me manners and to be a gentleman and all that good stuff. And then I moved in with my mother permanently at age 9. The change was enormous. I went from being raised in a respectable and happy household to watching my mother bring in pounds of pot and sell them out to friends. She used to smoke weed on long car trips when we went of vacation. She was also an alcoholic and I would come home from school to find her wasted. And then when she found out I had been experimenting with weed, she freaking gave me a high times magazine, seeds, and taught me how to grow pot. Like I said, no matter what you've been through in life you eventually have to take responsibility for your actions but some of us weren't raised in the most positive environments thus, basically being set up to be predisposed to alcoholism and addiction. I'm not a psychologist but I can only assume that if my mother hadn't raised me like she had, I would have probably just experimented with pot like most people do and move on with their lives. I pop pills fairly often, and occasionally mess around with harder stuff like coke and meth. I can only hope that my will to succeed in life and overcome a lot of the crap I went through as a kid will prevent this from becoming a major problem for me.

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    Dr. Z 7 years ago

    This is media alarmism. The term Pharm Party originated on a television show centered at scaring adults and using their fears to garner high ratings.

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    sky chick 7 years ago

    im 15 and i know about these parties. the facts are that once you have experimented with pharm. drugs that has opened the door for other drugs. this can lead to addiction and then loss of brain cells...bottom line don't do drugs and stay smart=)

  • profile image

    Reality Check 7 years ago

    Or we could all just get a life and find something productive to do...Like really why is everyone wanting to use these awful drugs. Growing up if you were talking medication it was because you were sick and it was to help you get better. If you took anything that your body didn't need it was harmful and instead of making you better it hurt you.

    If your taking medication to make you feel better you or that's the only way you know how to have fun then you need professional help. That goes for alcohol too, if getting drunk every weekend is your only version of fun you need to get a life.

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    MickyS 8 years ago

    jackie says:

    10 months ago


    3) i don't blame anyone(pharmisiduical its kids to blame. i don't believe in peer pressure, so its not an excuse either. its sad to say...but its easier to get pot, extascy, even meth than alcohol."

    A friend and I were discussing why there is so much pharm abuse in the USA compared to Belgium. We figured it probably had to do with the age you need to be before you can buy alcohol. I remember as kids we experimented with alcohol around the age of 15-16, getting "drunk" a few times, no big deal afaik. We could just go in a shop and buy liquor, and pubs are 16+. If alcohol was as illegal/hard to get as pharms or streetdrugs when we were that age we might as well have experimented with that instead.

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    MarianD 8 years ago

    I am 18 and just learned about pharm parties recently these parties do not seem to be wide spread yet (drive 30mins away from where pharm parties are happening in my area and it will be hard to find someone whose knows about them) but that is a good thing as we have an amazing chance to do something about this before it gets ingrained into youth culture but everyone needs to do there part the drug companies, the doctors, the parents and youth as well

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    steve-o prest 8 years ago

    these art real im 15 and a freshman weed is a much biger problem then pharm partys . we never talk of one.. no one i know even knew what these were before we lerd about them in heath class

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    jaye 8 years ago

    I am a nurse and i have worked it all. In the hospital setting you can enter the ER fake some pain and then be admited and get what ever you want. We had patients that just came in for IV pain meds because the pills where not working or they took all of them and where out. In the doctors office it was a bit harder but if the patient was persistent they got what they wanted. I live in Tennessee and there is law that you as a medical provider you can not deny pain meds. Good Luck everyone.............

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    drugusernotforlong 8 years ago

    bottom line---> drugs=bad =) be sober and druggy free

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    person 8 years ago

    im just loooking for research.

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    kait 9 years ago

    i have pity the person who believes it's the fault of the drug company or the parents or the media. they'er not holding a gun to these kids heads telling them to do these drugs illegally. i too am a pharmacy technician and i agree, the doctors will prescribe pain meds for the most minor of problems.

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    jackie 9 years ago

    1) im 18 and a pharmacy tech, and ive seen a lot. to me, doctors don't care, as long as the patient can pay for their visits, they will write it out, hand it to you, and go to the next patient. 2) i have actually been to a pharm party...and its amazing what people my age...and younger willdo! no lie....put everything in a bucket...they would swallow whatever they can grab in a handful..uppers, downers, even chlosterol meds! 3) i don't blame anyone(pharmisiduical its kids to blame. i don't believe in peer pressure, so its not an excuse either. its sad to say...but its easier to get pot, extascy, even meth than alcohol.

  • DarleneMarie profile image

    DarleneMarie 9 years ago from USA

    Great Hub. Thanks for shedding some light on a subject that I have not heard of before. I did not realize that there were "parties" dedicated to this activity...hopefully parents will wake up and be more mindful of the hazards in their medicine cabinets and take necessary action to keep them out of easy access to their teenage sons or daughters.

  • Sublime Wealth profile image

    Sublime Wealth 9 years ago from Springfield, PA

    Some great comments here. As a narcotics officer, I'll lend my observations...Personally, I think there is way too much advertising by the Pharmaceutical Companies as well but I don't hold that advertising responsible for the increase in child/teen use of prescription pills. I think that's society trying to cast the blame somewhere. Blame the lack of controls of the pharmaceuticals, yes, I'd agree with that, but not the advertising of them. I think that it's ridiculous that doctors still use hand written prescription pads (most pharmaceutical diversion comes from stolen scrips). Maybe we could mandate electronic submission from doctor to pharmacy--not too much to ask in this day and age. And most of all, we need to be on top of our kids and catching the signs before it's out of control. Great Hub, necessary topic.

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    detoxer 9 years ago

    Drug companies are advertising in every location. They are teaching our kids that people who take these drugs live great lives. Why should they not think that these drugs are safe. Do the drug companies tell us that oxycodone is legal heroin or that Ritalin is like cocaine? Do they say that, like Heath Ledger, they can die if they mix the wrong drugs?

    This is an epidemic and as the director of Novus Medical Detox, I see it every day. We are left with cleaning up the mess that the drug companies create.

    Steve Hayes

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    jeannebean 10 years ago

    I'm sorry, but I so disagree with Woemwood...I'm a Chronic Pain Patient, I see a Pain Management Specialist on a Monthly basis...we MUST sign a contract prohibiting patients from doing anything that may be found to be out of line...the're booted from the Clinic, with nowhere to go...and that 's not a good thing when you have no quality of life without Pain Management medications...with that said...I feel I must interject at this point, as some time has passed since you wrote this really well wriiten latest, I understand from my son is Methadone and Morphine, as well as Oxycodone/contin..sadly, two years ago a friend of my older son passed away after experimenting from some of the above mentioned mixed with Vodka....whose at fault? Society, yes to a large degree....but ultimately...the Parents..and particularly the one's who want to be their childs "friend"...they need to educate themselves..if they are taking meds..lock them up!!!! I cannot stress this enough to people who are taking meds and think "oh, my kid would never do that"...don't kid yourself!! It could be your child in the ER next week!

  • Woemwood profile image

    Woemwood 10 years ago from Melbourne Australia

    The fault lays with the medical profession, they think they know but they certainly know very little how to treat human beings, all they are is drugists, and that in time as we can experience will drug civilisation as a whole.