Pharming, New Teen Drug Craze
Family medicine cabinet now newest source
by Monica Novotny
Sept. 19 —
family medicine cabinet, now being “pharmed” by kids looking for drugs —
over the counter, prescription, whatever they can get their hands on.
What happens next is frightening.
According to Pat Connors, substance abuse expert, “They’ll combine them
all together in a bag or a hat or whatever, pass it around, take a
handful, and then sit back to see what happens to them.”
The consequences, for better or worse, are soon obvious. But for
doctors, the results of “pharming” are a mystery.
“When a teenager takes unknown pills and is unable to describe the
pills, we’re left with a conundrum,” says Dr. Russell Harris, chief of
emergency medicine at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center. “It could be
any host of medications so it’s the fear of the unknown and missing
something that’s potentially dangerous.”
And when a prescription mix isn’t available, there’s an even easier
option. High doses of over-the-counter drugs, like cough medicine.
“Everyone assumes that the FDA has approved everything and it’s very
safe,” says Dr. Harris.
While the abuse of over-the-counter drugs is nothing new, studies now
show it’s most common among 12 to 17 year olds. In fact, adolescents are
18 times more likely to die from an over-the-counter overdose than from
an illicit drug overdose.
“What’s new is the nonchalance with which these teenagers seem to be
approaching it,” says Dr. Harris. “When you’re taking things in a larger
amount, the medications in the long term may affect the liver, which we
may not see till days or weeks later.”
And the concern, as always, is what may come next.
“With abuse, the addiction potential can happen very rapidly,” says