“Did you bring some?” Chloe asked Ben as he followed her into the crowded living room.

Ben had been excited when Chloe invited him to her party. She was in his communications class. She was a sophomore and really good looking. He didn’t tell her but he’d looked forward to the college party scene since getting his acceptance letter. Ben’s parents loved him, but they were very strict through his high school years. He could never get away with partying like everyone else seemed to be doing, some with their parents’ blessing.

Now, Ben was a state away and living in the dorms. He could do whatever he wanted. But Chloe’s party wasn’t what he expected. He’d pictured kegs and red plastic cups with kids making out or puking in the bushes. This party seemed more…civilized. Chloe called him over to sit on a couch.

“Hey everyone, this is Ben.” Several people nodded greetings in his direction and went back to their conversations. Chloe held out a colorful glass bowl as Ben took a seat next to her.

Ben nodded and reached into his pocket, pulling out a bottle of pain pills. If he hadn’t had his wisdom teeth out right before leaving for college, he wouldn’t have had anything to offer. Ben popped off the lid and poured the contents into the bowl with other pills of various colors. Now he understood why this was called a Skittles party.

“Okay,” she chirped. “Grab some, but be careful. Only one of those funny-shaped ones.”

Ben reached in and grabbed a handful of pills. Chloe handed him a beer, and he gulped them down.

“I think Ben needs a Robo-shot.” Chloe put a spoon filled with thick purple liquid up to Ben’s lips. “Don’t worry, it’s just Robitussin. This one’s free, because I like you.”

Ben nodded and opened his mouth. It was his first party. He wanted to make it count.

For parents, a “Skittles party” like this seems unthinkable. Who would stick their hand into a bowl of unlabeled prescription medications and gulp the pills down like candy? Even when not mixed with alcohol or over-the-counter cough suppressants like Robitussin, the consequences can be deadly. While it’s a terrifying thought, these “Skittles” or “Pharm” parties are happening, and our kids are paying the ultimate price.

Share this article with someone if you enjoy it, and read on for more about how you can save your loved-one from a potential overdose.

According to RxSafetyMatters.org, studies in 2013 showed that nine percent of American teens reported trying a prescription pain reliever without a prescription in the previous year, and almost one in four teens admit to the misuse or abuse of a prescription drug.1

These numbers are alarming, and it’s still unclear how the trend in Pharm and Skittles parties will affect these statistics long-term.

There are varying reasons why this shift in the party scene may be happening among students. Several prescription drugs are easily available. Many people keep leftover pills after being prescribed them for a short-term medical condition. For youths, sharing medications between friends can seem like a cheap, risk-free way to get high. If teens share their parents’ or their own drugs, they’re not at risk of being busted for an illegal purchase, like for alcohol or weed. Prescription medication is often viewed as safer than street drugs.2

Typical college or high school parties aren’t the only places students can take part in this risky trend to get high. With the rise of social media, kids can search online for drugs as easily as they can search for funny cat videos. Dealers have used specific hashtags and emojis to indicate what specific drugs they have for sale.3 Instead of driving to a seedy neighborhood to buy drugs, kids can have them delivered right to their door. Although some online social platforms have begun monitoring and blocking accounts for drug-related hashtags, many parents fear it’s not enough to intervene in this deadly trend.4

So, what can parents do to keep their kids safe? Here are a few ideas:

  1. If you are taking prescription medication, be sure it’s secure and inaccessible to anyone else. Keep careful count of the number of pills you have.
  2. If you’re finished taking a prescription but still have pills left, dispose of them safely. You can visit your local law enforcement website or the DEA website for a collection site near you.
  3. Communicate with your child frequently about the dangers of taking medication without a prescription. According to a national study, only 14 percent of teens said that when they most recently spoke to their parents about substance abuse, the misuse of prescription drugs was discussed.5 If your child is educated about the brutal reality of drug interactions, they may think twice.
  4. Monitor any credit or debit cards in your child’s name for questionable purchases. College bank accounts include both parents’ and children’s names and allow both to access and monitor statements. Be aware that dealers can use online wallet apps like Venmo or Paypal for transactions.

Parents can equip their teens and young adults about the dangers of mixing unknown varieties of prescriptions drugs, and what to do if they find themselves in such situations. Young people need knowledge and strategies to enjoy their youth and peer groups without it being potentially lethal.

Parents still have some of the most influence on their kids. For more on how to stage an intervention with your kids or to have a conversation about drugs with your kids, check out more of our articles.

By Cindy Coloma

1“Facts & Figures.” RX Safety Matters, Accessed April 29, 2018.
2Yagoda, Robert. “From Keggers to Pharm Parties: the Changing Face of the College Party Scene.” U.S. News, December 9, 2016.
3Hayes, Heather R. “Social Media’s New Role in Adolescent Drug Use.” Heather R Hayes & Associates Inc, January 31, 2018.
4Tiku, Nitasha. “One Woman Got Facebook to Police Opioid Sales on Instagram.” Wired.com, April 6, 2018.
5“Talk with Your Kids.” Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, Accessed April 29, 2018.