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Parents warned about teens & prescription pill popping parties

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A new study shows parents do a decent job when talking to their kids about illegal drugs.

But, they’re not as good when it comes to pointing out the dangers of prescription drugs.

That’s because they see them as safer. And it’s leading to a new warning about pill-popping parties.

They’re called "Skittles" parties, where teens raid their parents’ medicine cabinets for prescription pills to take to a party, and blindly pick them out of a bag to swallow.

"I was diagnosed with ADHD and I've had prescriptions since the fifth grade so it wasn't something I looked down upon--as much as just normal," says Alec Henry, 17, of Northglenn.

But that was before the Thornton High School junior learned prescription medicines can do more harm than healing.

"Actually, I've been to parties where I've had massive amounts of pills and kind of handed them out like candy," he says.

That "candy" came from the medicine cabinet.

"They were probably my favorite, yeah. Pain killers, Benzos. That was probably the hardest thing for me to let go of,” says Henry.

He became addicted—for six years—until kicking the habit seven months ago.

"It's a way for kids to get access to drugs with no cost. When you're 14 years old, you don't have a lot of money. That's a way to get high without spending anything," says drug addictions therapist Todd Bunger of Arapahoe House at 8801 Lipan St. in Thornton.

The addictions treatment center treats 15,000 people a year for addictions—70 percent of them addicted to prescription drugs.

Bunger says admissions for prescription drug abuse quintupled the last five years.

"It's the least talked about addiction problem because the perception that they are safe, they are commercially made, they are sold across the counter in drug stores," he says.

But he says it’s an addiction that leads to harder drugs.

"Prescription opiates, pain killers, are how modern heroin addicts are getting the drug. They become addicted. It becomes too cost prohibitive to keep up with the drug, so they turn to heroin because it’s a cheaper alternative," says Bunger.

Henry never let himself go that far. He knew he might not be able to turn back.

And now through a Thornton High School video, he hopes his message can save others from the bitter pill of drug addiction.

"It really took me to just look in the mirror and just hate who I saw. And I decided I owed it to myself to change," says Henry.

Bunger says there just isn’t enough talk between parents and kids about the drugs in their medicine cabinets.

He says that’s primarily because parents don’t understand the dangers—since they grew up with the threat from illicit drugs, not prescribed ones.

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