'Pharm parties' leading some Massachusetts teens to misuse prescription drugs

By source · Nov 19, 2012 · ·
  1. source
    View attachment 29763 Michael J. Dias was born on Oct. 18, 1989, but instead of celebrating his birthday, his family in Ludlow now mourns his death.

    Dias committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in May 2009.

    “This was my son. He was a pianist; he had an extremely bright future. He went to school at Northeastern, interviewed with (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). He was extremely bright; he had a straight A average,” says his mother, Grace Dias.

    Her son graduated third in his class at Ludlow High School, but, while he was pounding the books, he was also illegally popping prescription pills, Dias said.

    The drug use began when Michael Dias was 16; the abuse continued until he graduated from high school. His mother thought that getting him out of Ludlow to attend college would solve the problem, but it got worse in Boston.

    After just one semester at Northeastern University, Michael Dias quit school and came back to Ludlow, but not back home.

    “I didn’t even know where he was,” his mother remembered recently. “He wasn’t living with me at the time, and it just went down from there. The reason he killed himself was because of a combination of prescription pills and steroids. I was having dinner at my sister’s house, and the police came over to tell me. He had been with me just an hour before. He put a gun to his head and killed himself.”

    This has not been an easy year for area families or for law enforcement in regards to young people and drug use. From the end of March to the beginning of July, East Longmeadow police say they responded to five medical emergencies involving heroin overdoses.

    “Two people were rushed to the hospital; three were rushed to the morgue. We’ve had three heroin deaths in this town, yes,” said East Longmeadow Sgt. Patrick Manley.

    The victims were all male, between the ages of 20 and 28, according to Manley. Their stories were similar to what police have been witnessing, a story that begins with prescription meds, switches to heroin, and then ends with an autopsy and an epitaph, the sergeant said.

    View attachment 29764 [Pic: Agawam police officers Robert Burke, left, and John Field show the Drug Display Unit they use in the Addiction Resource Center at Agawam High.]

    The fall into the lure of drugs for tens of thousands of young people across Western Massachusetts begins as early as middle school and most likely by high school when they begin using and abusing pharmaceutical drugs – oxycodone, hydrocodone, Percocet, and Ritalin, police and medical experts say.

    “The statistics are pretty scary. The number of middle schoolers who have tried oxycodone or hydrocodone-type prescription medications is fairly alarming, but in high school it’s become an epidemic,” said Dr. Louis Durkin, emergency room medical director at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield.

    In Longmeadow, police haven’t dealt with an overdose death in several years, but the department has fear it may just be a matter of time because young people appear to be now hooked on “pharm parties.”

    “This is where kids bring medicines they find in the house. They throw it on the table and everybody just starts taking medication, and they have no idea what it is. They just take it and see what it does for them, and that’s extremely dangerous,” said Longmeadow patrolman Dan Jacek.

    “When you get people combining all kinds of drugs together and they have no idea what the effects are going to be, it’s extremely dangerous and potentially deadly,” he said.

    Even though pharmaceutical drugs are available only by prescription, they’re easy enough for kids and teens to access, according to police. Authorities say children are taking the meds from their parents who leave prescriptions open and available all over the house – in medicine cabinets, purses, drawers or right on kitchen counters.

    “They don’t have to go on the street to buy their drugs. It’s right in their home,” said Agawam school resource officer Robert Burke. “The kids take a couple of pills at a time so no one notices.”

    Authorities say they have a tough time tracking down who’s taking pills because the tell-tale signs are few; drug-sniffing dogs can’t detect the narcotics, police, parents can’t smell drugs on a child’s breath, and, because young people are taking the drugs orally, or snorting them, teens don’t have needle marks on their arms.

    “It’s probably more accessible than alcohol. It’s another thing they can get into,” says Ludlow patrolman and school resource officer Paul Dobek. “For the kids, it’s just like popping candy. It’s simple, it’s clean, and tough to get caught.”

    View attachment 29765 [Pic: Longmeadow Police Officer Dan Jacek holds prescription drugs collected from a recent drug drop off held across Western Massachusetts and in Longmeadow. Drugs]

    Authorities say when kids aren’t popping pills, they’re crushing and snorting the medication, making a dangerous drug even deadlier. “The reason they snort it is the same reason it’s more dangerous. It enters the blood stream faster and you get higher faster. But the higher the concentration in the blood stream the more likely it is to cause death,” said Durkin.

    Middle- and high-school students have even easier access to drugs when the prescription is for them. Law enforcement officers say children who are being treated for attention deficit disorder, depression, anxiety, or hyperactivity may skip taking their meds and give, or even sell the narcotics to their classmates.

    “We call that diversion of the medication,” said Durkin. “That’s a big issue and doctors are now monitoring their patients more closely by calling them in for random checks to make sure they actually have the medication in their system,” he said.

    Doctors are also ordering their young patients to bring in their medication and counting how many pills are left in the bottle, according to Durkin. Too few could mean the child is over-medicating or selling the drugs, he said.

    “That child needs that medication and a lot of times they’re not taking it the way they’re supposed to because they’re selling it to make money or they’re getting their friends high with it,” said Burke in Agawam.

    Pharmaceutical drugs are highly addictive, hooking students not only on the medication but also the dealer. In high school, when the supplier graduates, students left behind are forced to find another source. Very often this pursuit of drugs takes a dangerous turn into the city. The young drug users are now forced to buy from drug dealers in metropolitan areas, like Springfield and Holyoke, where law enforcement officers say the suburban kids can wind up being in over their heads.

    “We see people coming into our city all the time driving through our high-crime areas, looking to score either heroin or oxycodone,” said Springfield Police Sgt. John M. Delaney.

    Delaney, aide to Police Commissioner William Fitchet, says teens from across Western Massachusetts, including some who come from the Berkshires as well as northern Connecticut and southern Vermont, are shopping for drugs in Springfield. He says the City of Homes has become a major drug distribution center for southern New England. But, when teens come with cash and shop for drugs, they don’t always get the goods, according to Delaney.

    “What happens more often than not is that instead of buying the drug they’re getting a gun in their face or they’re getting carjacked. They’re going to an area that is high crime and the dealers see the buyers as easy marks, especially if they’re from out of town,” said Delaney.

    Teenagers from suburbia aren’t coming to Springfield and Holyoke just to score illegal pharmaceuticals, according to Delaney. They’re also after heroin to buy, too, because it has the same effect as oxycodone.

    Heroin is so much cheaper now, and the purity level is at an all-time high. These kids can buy a $5 bag of heroin as opposed to $50 for a single oxycodone pill,” said Delaney. “Officers in the district know when somebody’s patrolling the area looking for drugs. We’ll pull them over and tell them to get out of Dodge because we don’t need any more crime victims.”

    [Pic: Prescription drugs collected from a recent drug drop-off held across Western Massachusetts.]

    In Ludlow, Dobek worries about kids literally crossing the line from oxycodone to heroine and Ludlow to Springfield. “It’s a gamble. You don’t know who you’re dealing with. There’s no honor among thieves. You go over there to buy drugs, but it doesn’t mean you’re not going to get ripped off, especially if you’re a kid from a small town who’s unfamiliar with the city,” he said.

    Stealing and using prescription medication intended for someone else isn’t just dangerous, it’s illegal – and authorities don’t differentiate between first-time users and hard core dealers, police say.

    “It’s illegal to have someone else’s prescription medication. If it’s not prescribed to you, you can’t have it,” says Burke in Agawam. “It’s not like alcohol. It doesn’t matter what your age is with drug offenses. There’s no break if you’re a minor. You can be 8 years old and have somebody else’s prescription, and you’re going to be charged the same way as a 30 year old.”

    The suicide of Michael Dias is just one reason the Ludlow Cares Coalition is now focusing on children and drugs, creating awareness of and trying to prevent drug abuse.

    “We’ve had our share of tragedy and we don’t need it; we don’t need it and it can be prevented,” said coalition chairperson Laura Rooney. “I’ve had to talk to my kids about tragedy and it’s very, very difficult.”

    Grace Dias formed the Michael J. Dias Foundation, a non-profit organization trying to raise money to build a “sober home” where drug abusing children and teens can go to beat the addiction.

    Although promoting drug awareness is now one of Dias’ missions in life, she’s got little advice for parents. “I’m at a loss for what to say to parents because I never want to make them feel like they had a part in this,” she said.

    Dias says she kept a close eye on her son, insisting that he do his homework and practice playing the piano. He had a curfew and she could enforce it because she was a stay at home mom. Dias simply doesn’t know what went wrong with her son.

    “You can talk to a child until you’re blue in the face, but how much effect does that really have? When you’re 16, all that matters are your friends,” Grace Dias said. “If you’re not accepted at school you’re going to do what it takes. The influence that’s out there is much greater than the influence you have with your child.”

    When a child pops his first prescription med, illegally, he takes the biggest gamble and makes what could be the biggest mistake of his life, Dias and the officers agree.

    “The drugs are prescribed by a doctor that knows your body, knows what you’re allergic to and what your body can handle,” said Dobek. “It’s like playing Russian roulette. If you randomly take a pill, you don’t know how it’s going to affect you.”

    In Ludlow and other area communities, parents are talking with their children about drugs and choices, hoping their point is well-made. “Kids need to know that as parents we support their good choices,” said Rooney. “The use and selling of drugs is something that we don’t support.”

    By Staasi Heropoulos
    on November 11, 2012 at 11:30 AM, updated November 11, 2012 at 11:40 AM



  1. nitehowler
    I think the government should make less harmfull drugs like ecstasy and dope legal this would curb the use of these other chemicals and meds that are killing our kids.
  2. runnerupbeautyqueen

    I posted this in another thread that talked about these parties: "I hear about this all the time but does anyone have any first or even second hand proof that these "bowl parties" have ever happened? It sounds like a scene from some show on the WB, like Gossip Girl or Degrassi or whatever the new trendy edgy show is for middle schoolers. High school kids aren't that stupid. Why would anyone take some xanax or oxy and throw them in a bowl to maybe pull out some asprin and antibiotics instead? And it's not hard to read a pill bottle and figure out that you can't get high off of amoxicillin, so why would you bring it to a party? When I was in high school my bible was The Complete Guide To Pills. Surely I'm not the only person who would be at one of these mythological "bowl parties" IDing the pills and taking the good ones.

    If a party like this has ever existed it was probably the first and last time it did. I can just imagine all the parents reading this article and thinking "oh dear" and then laying awake at night picturing their ten year old at a party, elbows deep in a bowl of pills. So they lock their kid up in the house which is where the pills for these "bowl parties" came from in the first place.

    I call bullshit."

    Seriously? They will charge an 8 year old the same as a 30 year old? What would even happen to a eight year old found guilty?

    It has to be illegally taken to be a gamble? And "the biggest mistake of his life?" I can think of a lot of things that normal kids do that can be much worse than taking a ritalin. Like drinking and driving (insert all the dangers of drinking and driving). Or unprotected sex. You can get over a drug addiction, having an unwanted child is a mistake that you can't get over. Taking medication that's not yours is not good, but I don't think it's "the biggest mistake of their lives" in most cases.

    This article seems like it's just trying to scare parents. I almost expected the last paragraph to say something like "this is why we need to protect our children and vote yes on prop 56-b!" And while they're worrying about these mythological "pharm parties" they aren't worrying about things that are, or could be, actually happening.
  3. Ghetto_Chem
    This article is just pathetic.

    ""When a child pops his first prescription med, illegally, he takes the biggest gamble and makes what could be the biggest mistake of his life, Dias and the officers agree.""

    Ok, but if the kid pops his first prescription med LEGALLY then there is no gamble or mistake being made, the substance all the sudden becomes completely benign, safe for anyone to use anytime.

    Also they debunk their claim on these "pharm parties" in their own article. At one point they talk about these pharm parties and how kids just pour out all the meds in the cabinet and go to town. Yet a few sentences later they claim that the reason parents dont find out is because the kids only take a few at a time.
    “The kids take a couple of pills at a time so no one notices.” What the fuck is it? They either are going ape shit on the pill cabinet and its completely obvious or they are taking a few at time and this article is just a bunch of bullshit.

    Look how proud those cops look btw.

    What the fuck is happening in peoples heads? Read some other forums/comments elsewhere online and you'll see DF is the major exception. Its really sad actually...

  4. profesor
    Having an unwanted child is not so bad when adoption and abortion are options. Usually the people who support harsh penalties for possession and expansion of police powers also oppose abortion. It's all about keeping those at the bottom of the society down.
    Before I get to far afield, what's up with "The reason he killed himself was because of a combination of prescription pills and steroids."??? Like it follows that people who use these drugs would obviously commit suicide. I feel sorry for the mother, but I expect he had other problems that she'd rather not face or admit to, and who can blame her?
    It's manipulative to introduce the article with this sad loss. Maybe there is a connection, but they need to spell it out The way its written now it just serves to scare parents "you're kid may commit suicide if he uses drugs!" I don't think so.
  5. SIR KIT
    I KNOW the "bowl parties" were just media bullshit. When I was in school, kids cherished their drugs like they were the last they would ever find
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