Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dangers of Teen Pharming

Dangers of Teenage Pharming
by Linda Myers-Bock, Registered Pharmacist

Want to go “pharming”? Then go to a “pharm party” (thrown by teenagers); a bowl of “trail mix” (a variety of pills mixed together) is passed around for party goers to “graze” upon. Another name for such a party is a “skittles” party, since the bowl of pills looks like a bunch of Skittles brand candy. You can’t get in unless you contribute to the mix so teens obtain the pills in a number of ways.

Most teens scavenge medicine cabinets of relatives--grandparents, cousins or aunts and uncles. Some steal sibling’s or parent’s prescription medications from their own homes. It’s also possible for teens with credit card access to buy drugs online, from overseas, without a prescription. One teen reported stealing drug samples from a relative who was a drug company sales representative.

Prescription drug abuse among teens has been steadily on the rise. Three million teens have abused prescription drugs and that statistic increased 400% in the last 10 years. Many start as early as age twelve. It is also now common for kids to bring baggies of mixed pills to school to sell to friends.

This practice can lead to a variety of health problems. It can result in seizures, stroke, breathing difficulties, kidney or liver failure or even death. One 21 year old who used to be on the Dean’s List at a private university suffered permanent brain damage from a stroke she had as a result of “pharming”. She’s now living at home, undergoing therapy, and struggling to keep a job in a sandwich shop. She will never graduate from college.

What to know and do to protect your teen(s):
1. Does your teen come home seeming “out of it” but not smelling of alcohol or
smoke? A teen who has taken pills at a “pharm party” may be jittery, nauseated, have red eyes, feel hot, or have difficulty breathing.
2. When you visit relatives watch for unexpected visits to various bathrooms.
3. Check credit card purchases carefully.
4. Keep all prescription drugs locked in a storage drawer somewhere other than the bathroom medicine cabinet. (The moist heat in the bathroom degrades drugs anyway.) Inventory what you have, including inhalers.
5. Return old prescriptions to a drug “take back” program or crush and discard medications in the trash mixed with litter or coffee grounds.
6. OTC (over-the-counter) medicine can also be abused, especially cough and cold medicines. Be suspicious of empty containers in the trash.
7. Even “smart” kids abuse prescription stimulants such as Ritalin and Concerta. These drugs improve concentration for studying and tests so keep track of any ADHD meds younger children may be using. This is most common between the ages of 18 and 24.

The most important thing you, as a parent, can do is talk to your teens about the dangers of “pharming” or taking medicine in any way except as directed by your doctor or pharmacist. The following resources can be very helpful. You can also contact me by e-mail or phone if you have any questions.

Linda Myers-Bock, Registered Pharmacist

References and Resources: a DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) website