In an AP interview, Nick said he and his friends often raided their parents’ medicine cabinets for anything they could get their hands on – codeine, Xanax, Ritalin. Some kids, Nick said, would have “skittles parties,” where the teens threw all the pills they poached from home into a big bowl, mixed them up and then took a few without knowing exactly what they were ingesting.
By 14, Nick’s parents knew something was wrong. The day before he turned 15, they sent Nick to The Center for Success and Independence in Houston for 7 1/2 months of substance abuse treatment. It wasn’t easy on anyone in the family – Nick, his two younger brothers and his parents. Nick tried to escape twice, but made it through the program and has been sober now for a year.
“My family life is a lot better. I’m realizing there are fun things in life that I can do sober,” said Nick, now 16. “I got a chance to get clean and I have my whole life ahead of me.”
One in four teens in the study said they had misused or abused a prescription drug at least once. That’s up sharply, a 33 percent increase, in the last five years. One in eight teens report misusing or abusing the drugs Ritalin or Adderall – stimulants prescribed to treat ADHD. Other national studies also have seen a rise in abuse numbers for these stimulants among teens.
The partnership’s Pasierb says parents need to talk early and often with their children about the dangers of drugs, including prescription drugs. “They need to tell their children that this isn’t healthy for you and it will break my heart if you do this.”
Looking back, Tracey Gerl says she should have listened to her gut more when she first suspected Nick might be using drugs.
“If it doesn’t seem right, it’s not,” said Gerl. “Don’t ever be naive to think it’s not my kid.”