Thursday, September 25, 2008

Are Pharm Parties Real?

Because I worry as a part time job, I have been reading about a new pastime among teenagers. It's called a pharm party. The basic idea behind it is to swipe a bunch of leftover prescription pills from the medicine cabinet, get a group of kids (usually eighth grade and above) who also bring swiped prescription meds, then open the capsules, smash the tablets, and mix everything into a big hodgepodge that is sniffed, snorted or swallowed. The psychoactive swap can be anything from antibiotics to blood pressure meds. The drugs of choice, or so it's rumored, are pain killers.

Now, I am still stumped by the thought of cutting parties. So when I read about these parties, I marched straight into my boys' room with the paper. They were sprawled on the sofa, texting while blank homework worksheets littered the floor. This is how it went:

Son 1: "Hey Mom, why do you look so worried? And do we have any ham left?"

Son 2: "The rest of the pizza rolls are mine. Don't touch them."

Mom explains about pharm parties. The boys laugh.

Son 2: "That's ridiculous. No one does that. You would get so messed up."

Son 1: "You should stop reading so much. So can you make me a sandwich?"

So, in my usual relentless manner, I asked the kids I worked with, both first year college students and high school students, if they had heard of pharm parties. They shrugged. None of them knew anyone who had ever participated in one, yet this is all over the media. And everyone knew what I meant immediately(except my two sons). When all else failed, I turned to that mecca of youth culture communication: I asked Son No. 2 to do a pharm party search on myspace.

Now, I do know that the kids there will post just about anything, and very little showed up about pharm parties. It seems this idea was first reported by the (National)Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA). Then it was on a few of the daytime talk shows, but apparently, and thankfully, the pharm party is largely a mythical creation of the media. Sure, kids probably get together and barter some of the drugs in the medicine cabinet, but the implication out there is that this is an organized, widespread ritual of drug abuse that is happening inside the lovely homes on your street.

Why would they want us to believe such a thing?


Mike from NY said...

The pharm party rumors have been making the rounds here in Manhattan, and it's the same thing here. I work with teens and not one of them has ever been to one of these events.

They want us to believe it so we tune in to whatever they are selling.

Anne Spollen said...

It does seem that this is largely mythical. I think it sounded probable to some people, but I think teens are a little more savvy than to just randomly swallow anything put before them.

The CASA report fueled this one.

Marcia said...

You would think they would NOT, as you say "just randomly swallow anything put before them." I'm so glad to hear this seems to be mainly rumor. And yet . . . I can almost buy it. What I really don't get is cutting.

Mary Witzl said...

How glad I am to know that this is mainly myth! This almost disturbs me more than the cutting, which disturbs me a great deal. At least the cutting will only leave physical scars; this could kill kids or damage them psychically for life. I asked my kids about this and they all three stared at me, aghast. "What? That could KILL you!" Whew.

Anne Spollen said...

I know what you mean, Marcia. I first heard this on the Keith Ablow show (that show might not even be aired anymore), and he had two kids on who frequented these parties. I remember thinking how it
sounded like something teens might do -- but I didn't hear of it happening around here.

I am so relieved that this has been media-fueled.

And cutting...I know. It just puzzles me as to how "it relieves the stress of my life," as one teen girl put it. That, unfortunately, is spreading.

Anne Spollen said...

Right, Mary. All the kids I polled were like, "No. What? That's nuts!"

I guess teens behave so destructively at times that when you first hear it, you think, "Hmmm, possible."

But I'm glad to hear it's not going on in some other part of the world -- and you are the best one to attest to "other parts of the world" for sure!

Anonymous said...

called using skittles in the south. as a mental health therapist, i can say i have clients whose drug of choice was skittles.