When most people hear the word “Skittles” they think of the popular fruit candy. These days the name has become synonymous with a dangerous teenage trend. If you hear teens in your family discussing a “Skittles Party,” there is much cause for concern.
A growing problem in the world of drug use is the abuse of prescription drugs. Some people assume a medication given by a doctor is safe, even when misused. Unfortunately, this problem has also spread to teenagers in party scenes.
According to Urban Dictionary, a “Skittles Party” is:
“a party where teenagers get together with a lot of random pills usually taken from parents’ medicine cabinets. They put them all into a pile and everyone takes a few. You don’t know exactly what you take.”
Teenagers who take part in these parties each bring a selection of prescription medications including drugs such as Oxycodone, Ritalin and Xanax. They arrange the pills in an open container and take turns randomly choosing some to take. They may or may not be aware of the exact drug they’ve taken.
Rates of drug abuse among teenagers reach nearly one in every four. Partnership for a Drug-Free America in conjunction with the MetLife Foundation showed 24 percent of high school students had abused prescription painkillers such as OxyContin or stimulants such as Ritalin.
Dangers of a Skittles Party
The dangers of this type of drug abuse are virtually endless. The most common outcome is overdosing on the medication. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, even ten years ago overdoses of medication accounted for nearly one-quarter of drug-related ER visits. Today prescription abuse accounts for 10 percent of emergency visits by teens.
Along with overdosing comes the risk of ignoring drug interactions by mixing medications. Additionally, if the user has an allergy to a drug, he or she is unlikely to acknowledge it when taking medication haphazardly. At these parties there is almost always alcohol available. Teens run the risk of dangerously combining it with other drugs. Another concern is preexisting medical conditions that may be made worse by the consumption of certain drugs.
How Parents Can Help
Many parents don’t understand what steps to take when countering the problem of drug abuse with their child. Often they don’t even realize the prevalence of the issue itself. Most parents are on the lookout for illegal drugs and ignore the potential to misuse medications already found in the home.
The first way to tackle the problem is to remove access to medications left in the bathroom or bed area. Even if your own child isn’t abusing them, they may bring friends over who steal drugs from others’ homes. Keep count of medication often in order to notice any that suddenly goes missing. Sort through medications that are outdated or no longer being used. Dispose of them appropriately away from the home. As an extra precaution, lock up drugs when possible so they can’t be accessed to begin with.
After removing access to any drugs within the home, talk to your teen about the issue. First ask if they have any friends who know about the activity. They may be more willing to open up if the conversation is centered on another person. If they admit to knowing other teens who have participated in Skittles Parties, ask if they’ve done so as well.
How to Prevent Your Child’s Drug Use
The best way to handle this problem before it starts is to have an open discussion about drug use and its consequences early in life. Make sure the conversation is appropriate for each stage of the child’s life. Hold off on more serious conversations until adolescence.
During the talks, make sure to emphasize household rules and personal values. Cover the appropriate steps to take when they are faced with a peer situation that makes them uncomfortable. They should express their feelings and assert the fact that their lack of participation does not make them any less “cool.” It only shows how strong and unique they are to stand up for their beliefs, unlike those who give in to the pressure.
Emphasize the need to come and talk to you about issues with which they may be uncomfortable discussing, and provide them freedom from judgment when they do so. Stay informed on the latest trends in teen activities and be willing to answer questions about these activities if they ask.
In daily life, try to control what influences your child is exposed to on television, on the Internet and with friends and family in the home. Even for teens, various media can be kept safe without restricting them to the point they feel smothered. Teach them how important it is to take care of their bodies and the long-term dangers of drug use. Get them involved with a drug awareness program such as Alateen to teach them about the process of addiction and how they could be affected.
If your teen has admitted to engaging in prescription abuse of any kind, seek professional help to overcome the problem.
Those who abuse prescription drugs often feel as though they do not have a problem considering the fact that using medication is more socially acceptable than using street drugs. Some teens may take the drugs to cope with issues such as depression or anxiety while others seek them to provide a boost during exams. These disorders should be managed separately.
While most drug prevention programs focus on common street drugs, there is also treatment for the growing epidemic of prescription abuse. Parents may begin by calling 1-855-DRUGFREE to speak with a Parent Specialist for assistance with a teen’s drug problem. Teen abuse should be handled differently as teenagers are not fully developed physically or psychologically, so treatment must be tailored to fit their needs.