Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

WASHINGTON -It’s an epidemic that’s getting kids hooked and the consequences could be lethal. The number of teens using and abusing prescription drugs has exploded. They are passing out pills at parties and sharing with friends. Experts say the cocktail of drugs and alcohol is a deadly game.

Two-thirds of teens who abuse prescription drugs get them from friends or family. It usually starts with one pill, swiped from the family medicine cabinet, turning parents into drug dealers and most don’t even know it.

“I didn’t sleep. I barely ate. I just used around the clock,” 20-year old Ally told FOX 5.

The Fairfax County woman, who is only being identified by her first name to protect her privacy, became an addict at 16 years old. She rattled off a variety of pills she has used: Roxicodone (Roxies), benzodiazepine (benzos), Xanax (Xanies), Vicodin, methadone and Opana.

She got her first high by stealing the meds from her grandmother. She would swap pills with friends at so-called “pharm parties” where the pharmaceuticals were as common as alcohol.

“It’s kind of like BYOB, except BYOP, bring your own prescriptions,” Ally described.

Studies show one in six kids has used prescription drugs to get high and more people to die from prescription drug overdoses than heroin or cocaine. Experts say illegal prescription drugs are being bought, sold and traded in every school, public or private, and in every neighborhood.

“I could get it easily in school,” said Ally. “By the time I reached college, it’s everywhere.”

Four years after taking her first pill, she just completed her third stint in drug rehab through a program with Phoenix House. The organization treats thousands of addicts with programs in 11 states, including Maryland and Virginia.

Debby Taylor, the Senior Vice President and Regional Director for the Mid-Atlantic, says prescription drugs have “blown” onto the adolescent scene in the past five years. It’s not uncommon to have a 15-year-old addicted to narcotics in treatment. She says the teens in their program often describe weekend benders, chasing prescription pills with a fifth of alcohol.

“It is Russian roulette,” she said.

40 years ago when she began with Phoenix House as a psychiatric nurse, Taylor thought it would take just a few years to get a handle on the drug abuse problem. Today, she finds it alarming that some believe drug use is a rite of passage, and right now, prescription drugs seem to be the teen drug of choice.