Local representatives from Children’s Hospital at Erlanger, Drug Enforcement Administration and Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department met on Tuesday to discuss a growing trend in prescription drug abuse called “Skittles” or “Pharm Parties.”
Three patients arrived at Children’s Hospital with serious signs of drug abuse. After treatment, the teens admitted they had participated in a “Skittle Party.”
During these “parties,” teens will deposit prescription drugs in a bowl and randomly ingest the pills. This type of activity raises serious complications such as overdosing on a particular drug or mixing a concoction of drugs that could potentially be lethal.
“Patients will arrive unconscious or awake and acting very bizarre or combative,” said Dr. Darwin Koller, Children’s Hospital Emergency Department medical director. “We rarely get the entire version of what was taken or how it was taken. Our goal is to support life functions when the patient arrives and screen as much as we can screen for.”
In 2011, Children’s Hospital saw 200 patients with complications from ingestions. 34 of those were teenagers who overdosed on medications and seven were patients who had taken multiple medications. This trend has not only grown in our region, but also in the state and in the nation. 72 deaths were recorded between 2000 and 2009 due to poisonings. The Center for Disease Control also reported poisonings deaths between the ages of 25 and 64 have actually surpassed the number of motor vehicle deaths in 2009.
“One of the most important ways to keep medication out of the hands of children and teens is to dispose your unwanted or expired medications properly,” said Cindy Jackson, RN, with Children’s Hospital Safe and Sound Program. “Many times younger children or teens will find the medications at a family member’s or friend’s home and access them because they were not properly stored in a secure area.”
Experts say teens will also think prescription drugs are safer to take than the illegal drugs because they are prescribed by a physician. In fact, the medication that is prescribed may be safe for that person but not for another. Individuals react differently to medications and must have prior authorization or instructions from a physician.
Brad Byerly, resident agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Chattanooga, stresses “some people may be drug dealers and not even know it” when it comes to prescription drug access. “Some of the narcotics are equivalent to what we see on the street and the abusers have reached record levels. Non-medical use of prescription drugs now ranks second to marijuana.”
Representatives encourage residents in our region to dispose unwanted or expired prescriptions properly by taking them to one of the drop off events during National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
For more information and to find a drop off location near you, please visit www.dea.gov.
Additionally, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department will host a drop off event on Friday, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. during a health fair at Chattanooga State Community Health Institute.
“We recommend you destroy personal information on your medication packaging before you drop off the prescriptions,” said Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Janice Atkinson. And, for the safety of the collectors, they will not accept needles.