Vigilant parents who guard the liquor cabinet
against enterprising teens would be well
advised to keep an eye on the family medicine
chest as well.
An alarming national study conducted this year
by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America
year reveals that one out of five teens has
admitted to abusing prescription drugs.
Coined Generation Rx as a result of the study,
teens today abuse more prescription
medications than illegal street drugs.
It's a growing epidemic among teens and most
parents don't even know it.
Instead of searching for a local hook-up,
teens are finding plenty of drugs for a quick
high right in the comfort of their own homes.
The culture of "pharming" the abuse of
prescription medications to intentionally get
high is slowly making its way to smaller
communities all across America.
Accounts of teens at parties or in school
hallways swapping pills swiped from the family
medicine chest are becoming more common, much
to the dismay of local law enforcement and
AODA (Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse) counselors.
"If you would have told me some time ago about
kids going to a 'pharm party,' I would have
thought you were going out to someone's farm
for a good time," said Waupun School Liaison
Officer Brian O'Donovan, who picked up on the
trend nearly 1½ years ago at a national
conference tracking juvenile issues. "It's an
alarming trend. Prescription drugs seem all
the rage because they're more readily
It's so easy
In her practice at the Department of Community
Programs for Fond du Lac County, AODA
counselor Kathy Heaney is seeing more and more
young clients abusing prescription medications.
"We're seeing a lot of abuse of stimulants
such as Ritalin or pain medications like
OxyContin or Percocet," said Heaney, noting
that her youngest client being treated for
substance abuse is age 12.
With a record number of prescriptions being
written for Adderall and Ritalin for ADHD (Attention
Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) disorders,
many teens may pretend to lose their
medications or pocket their younger sibling's
to use or to sell.
By shopping the medicine chest, teens may also
find leftover pain medications prescribed for
an adult living in the household.
"If you have medications in the home, you
should keep them in a safe place so there is
no access- whether it's your child, your
child's friend or other people in the home,"
"You have to stay one step ahead of them. It's
a controlled substance that can be very
dangerous if misused."
Heaney said that many of her clients admit to
using the Internet as a source to obtain
According to a new White Paper released by The
National Center on Addiction and Substance
Abuse, for the third year, the number of Web
sites selling controlled prescription drugs
The update reveals that one out of 10 of these
sites selling drugs do not require a
"We've had the instance where a couple of
adults in Waupun have died from taking too
many prescription medications, many of which
were purchased online," O'Donovan said.
Many teens mistakenly believe that using
prescription drugs isn't as dangerous as using
street drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine,
Ecstasy or crack, said AODA counselor Joyce
"One client thought those drugs were safer
since they had the FDA's seal of approval and
were prescribed by a physician," said Gau, who
works at the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Resource
Center of Fond du Lac.
O'Donovan said many teens aren't aware of the
addictive nature of prescription drugs such as
OxyCodone (also known as the poor man's heroin)
and freely share them with one another.
"We had one female student that asked her
friend for a couple of tablets of OxyContin as
a birthday present," O'Donovan said.
Prescription for trouble
While prescription medications are beneficial
if taken in prescribed doses under a doctor's
care, nearly 75 percent of those abusing
prescription drugs compound the risk by adding
alcohol to the equation.
"Mixing medications with alcohol or other
medications (especially if the teen has no
idea of what they're consuming) can be a
deadly combination," Heaney said. "They could
be laying there unconscious with no pill
bottle or evidence of what they've taken,
leaving parents or health-care professionals
helpless to know where to begin in helping
Overdoses of prescription and over-the-counter
medications accounted for about one-fourth of
the 1.3 million drug-related emergency room
visits in 2004, according to the federal
Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services
Recreational and experimental use of
prescription medications may result in serious
health-related consequences, and those caught
possessing them without a prescription could
face drug charges equivalent to possession of
illegal narcotics, O'Donovan said.
"We've had cases where students have been
caught selling or sharing medications in
school," O'Donovan said. "Kids need to realize
that it's a crime."