'Pharm parties' becoming new, deadly trend among teens; Doctors warn parents

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PITTSBURGH - Sgt. Jennifer Johnson is in charge of a sheriff’s office medicine disposal box program, but it’s more than a job. It’s a personal mission.

"You never think that it affects your family” Johnson said. “But I have a 19-year-old nephew that he and his friends decided to take some prescription pills that didn't belong to them and they cut them into thirds and each one took a piece and they were drinking alcohol with it and unfortunately my nephew went to bed and didn't wake back up."

Her nephew combined the drug Suboxone with alcohol, Johnson said. It was his first time.

Doctors at Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Beaver County said more teens are going to "pharm parties," a party with dangerous and even deadly consequences.

"A pharm party is when a bunch of kids, you know either buy whatever kind of pills you can get your hands on,” one recovering addict told Channel 11’s Jennifer Abney. “It's similar to any other party. You’re going to find other drugs like alcohol and marijuana and stuff."

 “It's extremely dangerous. I mean, it's like literally playing Russian roulette,” said Dr. Neil Capretto, the medical director at Gateway Rehab.

It's not a new term, but it's one that Capretto is starting to hear more often. He said when drugs are mixed, lethal combinations can result.

“There was a young girl in our community recently that was at a party and took two pills, didn't know what they were. They were two 80 milligrams of oxycontin. That's equal to 36 percocets at one time,” Capretto said.

A recent CDC study showed that 20 percent of teens will have abused prescription drugs before they graduate.

One recovering addict Abney spoke with said he tried his first painkiller when he was just 14 years old.

“My mom was in surgery and we had some pills around the house so I took those," he said.

"I tell parents treat narcotic medicine like it's a loaded gun because actually more people die in your community from overdoses from prescription medicines than homicides and traffic fatalities,” said Capretto.

Capretto pointed out that addiction does not discriminate, which is why he said parents need to be involved in their child’s life and be aware of their habits, friends, and behavior.

“Keep your radar on. This is too important.  The life of your child depends on this,” he said.

For more information on teen addiction issues and how to get help, visit www.drug-alliance.org.