It's a hard pill to swallow, but parents and grandparents may have become the primary drug dealers and unsuspecting suppliers of narcotics to their own children and circle of teenage friends.
Experts say pill-popping among American youth is growing at staggering rates, prompting Bulloch County to coordinate Operation Medicine Drop on Saturday.
Sponsored by the Coalition for a Drug Free Bulloch County, Operation Medicine Drop is part of a national initiative to keep unwanted and expired medicine out of the hands of youth.
The event is scheduled for Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at four locations: Forest Heights Pharmacy, McCook Pharmacy on Highway 80 east, The Prescription Shop and Walker Pharmacy in Brooklet. It is a free service provided by the coalition and its partners. Medications should be brought in their original prescription bottles with personally identifiable information removed. Collected medications will be disposed of in an environmentally safe manner.
"This program is a step in the right direction to remove the supply of prescription drugs from those who abuse them," said Greg L. Jones, M.D., an addiction specialist with Willingway Hospital in Statesboro. "We need to concentrate on eliminating opiates and sedatives from the hands of teenagers."
By the time young patients come to Willingway, Dr. Jones said they have been abusing narcotics for some time. But frequently, their entrée into the world of abuse and subsequent dependence on prescription drugs started with stealing pills out of medicine cabinets.
"It opens the door to serious addiction problems," adds Dr. Jones.
At East Georgia Regional Hospital, Douglas Sommers, M.D., a board-certified Emergency Room physician, said he has observed an increase in ER visits during exam weeks among college students who abuse attention deficit disorder (ADD) medications.
"Students who are prescribed Ritalin and Adderall sell other college students these drugs with the promise the pills will help them study better," he said. "They come to the ER with palpitations, shortness of breath and chest pains."
Dr. Sommers said students who take only one or two of these pills enter the ER feeling like the medicine has "sent them over the edge."
Dr. Jones said that emergency rooms across the country are additionally plagued with manipulative injuries such as sprained ankles and toothaches.
"They come to the ER with vague aches and pains to obtain opiates that will get them high," he said.
Jay Goldstein, M.D., medical director of Emergency Services at Memorial University Medical Center, said high school students are landing in his emergency room as a result of "barn" parties.
"Teenagers are going into their parents' medicine cabinets and stealing cholesterol medications, opiates, sedatives, and blood pressure pills," he said. "They grab a handful of them, get to the party and throw them into a pot. Everyone grabs a few pills, swallows them and waits to see what happens."
These barn parties continue to rise in popularity on the high school scene. Dr. Goldstein said barn parties (aka farm or "pharm" parties) have become a national phenomenon and surfaced in Savannah about a year ago.