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Teen "Pharm" Parties on the Rise: Keep Meds Locked Up at Home

December 12, 2011

MANCHSTER, N.H. - According to the federal Food and Drug Administration, thousands of youngsters are hospitalized every year, and some die, because they take medications not prescribed for them. With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it's a good time to keep a wary eye on toddlers and teens.

Cheryl Abel, an assistant professor at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, Manchester, advises adults to lock up all medications and put them out of sight. Small children could eat pills because they look like candy, she warns. Another problem is the growing number of teens who raid medicine cabinets to supply so-called "pharm parties," as in pharmaceuticals, she says.

"They'll take any medication, whether it be prescription or over-the-counter. Basically, they get to wherever they're going, dump all those bottles into a bucket or bowl, pop those pills and see what happens."

Abel says what could happen are any number of serious side effects. Therefore, she recommends keeping all drugs in a lockbox of some kind - which may seem extreme, but could very well save a life. She adds that storing them in the bathroom medicine cabinet is actually the worst place because of all the moisture, and it's also the first place a teen would look.

Abel says just because you don't think your teen could be capable of taking your meds and sharing them with others, doesn't mean it's not possible.

"There are a lot of incidences of prescription drug abuse that go unnoticed, or one could potentially be in denial that it could be someone in their family who is taking the medications. It's something you should always consider if all of a sudden your medications go missing."

Expired or unwanted drugs should be disposed of properly, Abel adds. Some communities in New Hampshire have medicine take-back programs. To find one, Abel suggests checking with the local town, city or county recycling program, or asking a local pharmacist.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH