The name sounds so cute and innocent: Skittle parties.
But experts say those who attend are in for much more than a sugar rush and there’s nothing sweet about the newest trend to hit London’s party scene.
As back-to-school season begins, London paramedics say they need to spread the word about the dangers of such events.
“It started a few years ago but it’s happening more often. They call them Skittle parties,” said Miranda Bothwell, public education co-ordinator for Middlesex-London EMS.
But such parties, also known as “pill” or “pharm” parties, are out there and involve guests bringing prescription and over-the-counter medications with them.
“They dump all the bottles into a bowl, pass the bowl around and everybody pops a couple of pills,” she explained. “People bring pills, pop each other’s pills, not knowing where they came from or what their reaction could be.”
“The problem is the fact that some medications — if you mix one prescription medication with another, it’s enough for you to overdose, seize and possibly die,” said Bothwell. “Some of them, if you combine a prescription med with an over-the-counter one, you could die.”
The dangers can’t be overstated, according to Dr. Peter Wu, an internal medicine specialist in Toronto who sounded a public warning about the pill parties a year ago.
“Some of the medication alone can be fatal. Sometimes in combination they can have far worse effects than when taken alone. When they mix them, that is clearly extremely dangerous, especially given you have no idea what you are taking,” Wu said.
Making the partries even more dangerous is that the young users often have no experience with or tolerance to opioids and other drugs, creating even more severe reactions, Wu said.
Wu stressed the importance of adults getting rid of medication that is no longer needed or that has expired.
“Those medications should be treated like any other dangerous substance in the house, locked up and safely stored.”
Neither local paramedics nor the Middlesex-London Health Unit keeps statistics on overdoses related to such pill parties, but Bothwell started talking to Grade 5 pupils about the dangers of the events last year as part of the Middlesex-London EMS Race Against Drugs program .
She said she was shocked at their reactions.
“When I ask if they know what a Skittles party is, some guess ‘Oh, you bring a bag of Skittles,’ but more than half of them know exactly what we are talking about and they’ll tell you,” she said. “The parents look at us mortified. They can’t believe their kids know what we are talking about, but they know.”
Workers at London’s addiction and street health agencies say they haven’t received many reports of the Skittle parties, although there have been reports of the parties in Woodstock.
— with files by Free Press reporter Randy Richmond
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Local outreach workers also are keeping an eye on fake OxyContin pills laced with deadly fentanyl.
- Fentanyl is a powerful painkiller usually sold in a patch but coming into Canada in a powdered form that some dealers are pressing into a pill to make it look like the popular OxyContin. A rash of overdoses in Vancouver has police across the country issuing warnings about the fake pills.
- Workers at Addiction Services of Thames Valley have heard reports the pills are available in London and Woodstock.
- Outreach workers at the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection haven’t seen evidence of the fake Oxys on the street yet, said Sonja Burke, director of harm reduction. Oxys run for a much higher price than London’s dominant street drug, crystal meth, and that may be one reason why the fake Oxys haven’t taken hold, she said.