A few days ago, on 5th July, the following article appeared on transworldnews.com:

Beware of Pharma Parties

You have a teenager. They say that they are going to a friend’s house for a party. You, reminded of the drunken “keggers” you went to as a teenager, ask if there will be alcohol. They say no. You breathe a sigh of relief and give permission.

They come back, obviously intoxicated, but you don’t smell any alcohol, or marijuana. They haven’t been drinking, but something is wrong.

Welcome to the world of the Pharma Party.

Narconon Drug Rehab in Georgia warns that while alcohol is still the drug most abused by teenagers, pharma parties are becoming the rage.

“Teens will raid their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinet, take Oxycontins, Percocets, Valiums, Xanax, and a get together with their friends,” warns Mary Rieser, Executive Director Of Narconon Drug Rehab in Georgia. “They will mix and match their drugs, which is of course very dangerous. Soon they become drug addicts and this starts the dwindling spiral. Parent’s can’t figure out what happened.”

All sounds pretty scary, right?

Slight problem: “pharma parties,” at least in the way the media puts them across, aren’t real – at least not in any kind of widespread sense. Jack Shafer of slate.com devoted a series of articles – one in 2006 and two followups in recent months – to the alleged phenomenon, and concluded that it was most likely a media myth:

Phar-Fetched “Pharm Parties” – Real or a media invention?

Do “pharm parties” exist?

If this is your introduction to the subject of pharm parties—those alleged social gatherings where teenagers gather to swap psychoactive pharmaceuticals—I suggest you first read the column I wrote last week criticizing a Page One, June 13, report in USA Today about the phenomenon.

In it, USA Today claims that drug-abuse counselors “across the USA” say they’re “beginning to hear about similar pill-popping parties, which are part of a rapidly developing underground culture that surrounds the rising abuse of prescription drugs by teens and young adults.”

My column looked askance at the story, noting that the reporter hadn’t witnessed a pharm party firsthand, nor had she interviewed a pharm party attendee, nor had she interviewed a police officer who had broken up one. Without a doubt, some teenagers do drugs. Without a doubt, some do drugs together. I’m certain that some of today’s teenagers—like those from my generation (the 1960s)—even share drugs, including their own prescription pharmaceuticals or other licit drugs they’ve diverted from legal channels.

But pharm parties, where, “Bowls and baggies of random pills often … called ‘trail mix,’ ” are dispensed, as USA Today reports? My BS detector started growling the minute I spotted the piece.

In followups in March of this year, Shafer traced the history of the story to the 1960s and examines recent media coverage. Looks like someone needs to do a tad more research, perhaps.

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