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There’s a new word that has popped up to describe the partying habits of today’s teens. Parents, you need to know that the parties your kids are going to aren’t the same ones you went to. Today, teens are doing a lot more than drinking beer and smoking weed. They are also pharming.

What is Pharming?

Pharming is using prescription drugs to get high, and the term is also used to describe the act of searching through another person’s medicine cabinets for prescription pills to steal. Pharming can also be used to describe the act of going to the pharmacy and buying over-the-counter drugs that contain DXM (dextromethorphan) to get high.

Pills are the drug of choice for teens, and prescription meds are being taken, mixed, and combined with other drugs in very dangerous ways.

A Friday Night Pharm Party

Nick is a high school senior. His dad recently had knee surgery and was prescribed Vicodin for the pain. The painkillers are kept in a bathroom cabinet, where Nick can easily grab one or two without anyone noticing.

Chloe is a high school junior. Her mom has a prescription for Xanax that she only takes when she travels for work (flying makes mom anxious), and her little brother has a prescription for Adderall to help his ADHD. Mom keeps all of the meds in the refrigerator, on the top shelf where little brother can’t reach them. No one notices if one or two go missing from each bottle.

Friday night, after the football game, Nick and Chloe head to a party at a classmate’s house. The parents are out of town, and it seems like half of the school is there. Loud music is playing, various bottles of booze are open in the kitchen, and a haze of smoke fills the air.

Nick and Chloe sit on a couch with a few other kids. On a coffee table in front of them is a small pile of pills in various shapes and colors.

The negotiations begin.

Chloe wants to keep her Adderall, but she is willing to swap out a Xanax for another stimulant. She likes the way she feels when she combines the uppers with alcohol. Nick is trying to trade two Vicodins for a single, much stronger, Oxycontin. When a trade can’t be made, he resigns himself to keeping the pills. “If you crush them and snort them,” his buddy advices, “they will kick in faster and feel stronger.”

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Prescription Drug Abuse is on the Rise

What drives teens like Nick and Chloe to use these prescription pills so recklessly? For most teens, prescription drugs come with a false sense of safety. As many as 50% of teens wrongly believe that prescription drugs are safer than illicit drugs.

And teens aren’t just using prescription pills to get high, either. Teens are using drugs meant to treat ADHD, like Ritalin and Adderall, as study aids; drugs such as Xanax to help with the stress and pressure of finals and college exams; and even misuse prescriptions to help with weight loss or athletic performance.

The sense of safety, easy access, and highly addictive quality of prescription pills is behind an epidemic of drug use in America. As many as 1 in every 4 teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 have misused a prescription drug: taking pills that don’t belong to them, or taking more than the prescribed amount.

Call it pharming, pharm parties, or just plain partying… parents need to know that pills are big on the teen party scene. Know the signs of teen drug use. If you have any prescriptions in your home, do your teens a favor and lock up your meds.

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