Commentary: Got a teenager? Check your medicine cabinet

November 15, 2010

Recreational drug use has evolved over the years and "pharming" - kids lifting pills from the folks' medicine cabinets - is now second only to marijuana use.

"Hey, you got Quaaludes?" That was a common Friday-night intrusion years ago. Followed by hilarity from the buxom blonde hanging onto the kid's arm. Did I have Demerol, Percodan, Seconal? the boys asked. They were showing off for the girls. They looked the part of drug-users. Unkempt. Shadowed eyes.

The drugs changed over the decades to modern beauties such as Vicodin, Xanax, and Soma, but I don't remember a girl asking me the "You got drugs?" question until recently, when a pretty teenager peeled off from her group of friends and came over to the pharmacy counter. Her eyes were shadowed, but she was anything but disheveled. She was put together nicely and her clothes smelled of money. She leaned over the counter, looked at me and asked, "You got Effexors?" She had pretty blue eyes, but there was no sparkle in them.

"Becky, come on." A young man fitted out in Abercrombie clothes came over. He smiled. "Becky is a card," he said. "Always joking." He took her arm in an attempt to lead her away, but she wasn't budging. I wondered whether she had fallen asleep standing up.

"I don't think so, man," I said. "I think Becky is loaded."

"Marina," he said.

A girl wearing yoga togs stepped up. "Marina," she said to Becky, "We better go now, Marina."

"Marina?" I said, "I thought her name was Becky."

"Becky is a nickname," the boy said. "From Becky Thatcher in Tom Sawyer."

"Did she take Effexor?" I asked.

The boy gave me a grim look, "That and other things." He studied me. "You're not going to bust her, are you?"

"If I knew her full name, I might call her mother and tell her to lock up her prescriptions."

Marina/Becky pulled away from the boy. "I'm okay," she insisted. "I didn't take illegal drugs or dangerous drugs. Just some Benadryl and a couple prescription ones." She frowned at me. "Why am I talking to you?"

"You shouldn't be taking prescription drugs," I said and cringed. This was so weak I could hardly stand myself. Since when do teenagers in the 21st century listen to a sentence that starts with "You shouldn't"?

The yoga girl said, "She doesn't smoke grass or shoot up or anything. She just went to a couple pharm parties. It's not like she uses illegal drugs or anything."

"Whatever happened to beer?" I wondered out loud.

"You can't get beer," the boy said. "Beer is illegal. We're not going to break the law."

Call me a naïve bumpkin, but I had no idea. I dispense Effexor all the time to disenchanted housewives and white-collar office workers trapped in jobs they hate, but I never dreamed that their kids were robbing them to add to the communal Ziplock bag they call Trail Mix. All of a sudden the question "How can it be 'Refill Too Soon' when all I take is one a day?" made a lot more sense.

Do I dare have this conversation? The one that includes "Do you have a teenager at home, Dr. Motley?"

"You must have shorted me. I only take one a night."

"Ma'am, we dispensed a sealed bottle to you. We buy mirtazapine 45 mg in bottles of 30."

"Are you implying that my daughter took some? That she stole my prescription medicine?" Dr. Motley is in a fighting frame of mind. She's a single mother and her job as a scientist at Galveston National Laboratory at UTMB consumes her attention. "How dare you? My daughter is an honor student. She's an accomplished pianist. She's an elder of our church."

The woman doth protest too much, methinks. Her daughter is a pharmer.

I am too chicken to say it. I'll keep quiet until it is more commonly known that pharming is now second only to marijuana use.

In the year 2010, keggers may now be wholesome teenage behavior.

JIM PLAGAKIS is a community pharmacist in Galveston, Texas. You can e-mail him at jpgakis@hotmail.com and cc us at drugtopics@advanstar.com
. You can also check out his website at http://jimplagakis.com/.