The Events Can Expose Participants To A Potentially Deadly Mix Of Drugs
By Harold Gwin
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- They call it pharming, but young people who engage in the practice aren't planting a field of corn or plowing the back 40 acres.
They're taking prescription drugs from the family medicine cabinet or from grandma's nightstand to take to a pharm party.
Pharm is short for pharmaceuticals, which can cover a wide variety of prescription medications. These might include painkillers like OxyContin, Fentanyl and Vicodin and sedatives like Xanax. Mind-altering drugs like Zoloft or Prozac might also be added to the mix.
At pharm parties, the drugs are tossed into a bowl or bag, creating a potentially lethal mix of drugs, and the partygoers help themselves to the stuff -- often washing it down with alcohol.
Area police departments said they've heard of that type of activity, but none contacted by The Vindicator said they'd actually been called to investigate one.
But they are here, according to local drug and alcohol counselors.
"They do exist. They're definitely happening," said Bob Wissinger, a program director at the Adolescent Treatment Center in Niles.
His agency works with eight Northeast Ohio counties.
They call it a party, but there's no glamour in it despite how television and other media might portray the activity, Wissinger said.
It is more typically a suburban practice, said Doug Wentz, director of Prevention Partners Plus, a joint venture between Meridian Services and Neil Kennedy Recovery Clinic.
It's a matter of availability, authorities say. People who live in the suburbs generally have more money available to spend on visits to the doctor and prescription drugs. Kids don't have to go out on the street to buy marijuana or other illegal substances, but can just raid the family medicine chest for drugs.
Wentz said reports of area pharm parties began over the past year.
"This just is becoming commonplace," he said, noting the practice isn't limited to teenagers. Adults are doing it too, he said, with some visiting real estate open houses at homes for sale and stealing drugs from medicine cabinets there.
Kids think that, because the drugs are prescribed by a doctor, they're safe to ingest, said a drug counselor at a local agency who asked that his last name not be used and that his agency not be identified.
"It can be real dangerous. You're basically rolling the dice," he said, explaining that those who attend the parties could be mixing uppers with downers and could easily ingest a lethal mixture of drugs.
His agency has dealt with some young people who have overdosed while engaging in this type of activity. No one died, but they had no idea what drugs they had taken, the drug counselor said.
Police in Hermitage, Pa., reported the death of a 19-year-old man a year ago who had taken methadone pills he'd bought from a kid who stole them from his mother. The victim was at a party and mixed alcohol with the drug and died, police said.
Police in the region say they have noticed an increase in the numbers of teens and adults being caught with prescription drugs that don't belong to them, but they haven't had any calls to investigate a pharm party.
Police might not be getting calls to a party, but they do hear about things kids are doing, said Tom Johnson, Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer for the Poland Township Police Department.
"I can't say we've come across that specifically," Paul Lasky, D.A.R.E. officer in Canfield, said of pharm parties. It does, however, appear that the interest in prescription drugs is stronger than years ago and arrests for illegal possession of pills are up in recent years, he said.
"Kids don't know what they're getting themselves into. There's a lot of strong drugs out there," Lasky said.
There have been reports about kids taking drugs from their parents, said Detective Michelle DiMartino, D.A.R.E. officer in Boardman. They think it's safe because the drugs are from a doctor, she said.
Parents need to know where their kids are and make sure they are supervised, Wentz said, adding that they should also make sure their prescription drugs are safely secured.
"Parent involvement is huge," Wissinger said, explaining that parents can have a major impact on a child's behavior.
Talk to and get involved with your children, Wissinger advised. If a parent sees signs of drug use, such as a child suddenly acting or behaving differently, they should get help. Don't ignore it, he said.
Flush your unused medicines. Know what you have and keep an eye on it.
This article shows a definite need for better (or any) education about prescription drugs that are so commonly available in the US (and other countries).
The US truly is a drug culture even if it doesn't want to admit it and keeping quiet about the major hypocrisy of the drug war just fuels ignorant and dangerous activities such as the one described above.