It’s true, you know: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

What has stayed the same is the tendency of young people to pilfer their parents’ stash in a blossoming pursuit of chemical happiness. What has changed are the ingredients.

Admit it. Two hundred years ago when you were young, you used to sneak into the liquor cabinet and siphon off as much gin, rum or whiskey as you dared. You would replace it with water until, over the months, that bottle dad kept for special occasions, such as you moving out, would be roughly 1 proof.

Of course, that was back in the day when a parent could keep liquor around the house without being accused of child abuse. These days, booze is locked up tighter than automatic weaponry around the house, if it is kept there at all. Elaborate alarms guard the Cutty Sark. Alcohol cams are set up around the house as an additional precaution.

Rest easy, future Father of the Year. Kids aren’t aiming for your fire water so much these days. Instead, they are in the bathroom rooting through the medicine cabinets.

Pill parties are all the rage. A sort of potluck form of chemical abuse, the kids are swiping whatever prescription drugs they can get their hands on and taking them to parties. All those pills – pink ones that make you sleepy, tiny white ones that dull the edges of your various manias, neat round pills that take away your pain and make you feel sort of fuzzy – are gathered and put out like hors d’oeuvres.

Bored with the predictable buzz of keg beer, no longer enthralled by the sexy twist of Ecstasy, some youth thrill seekers have come to wonder what the pharmaceutical sciences can do for them. They want to know why mom becomes so serene after gobbling two pills no bigger than a pinky nail or why dad doesn’t seem unhappy about his root canal.

“All they know is that it’s something else that gives them an altered state,” said a former drug agent. “There’s a whole prescription drug culture out there. Kids are finding it as easy, or easier, to take these drugs than it is to drink.”

And why not? A party is at hand and it doesn’t require the muscle of hauling kegs around or the physics of a tap. A fast root through the medicine cabinet reveals good times in tiny bottles of tinted plastic.

Dad keeps a bottle of Oxycodone around the house ever since the shoulder surgery. It made him queasy and he didn’t care for it much so it sits back on a shelf, a bottle filled with tiny pills waiting to be crushed and snorted or just popped into the mouth like Tic Tacs.

Hydrocodone, prescribed after so much as a teeth cleaning, has become as ubiquitous as aspirin used to be. It kills pain, yes. But it also provides the user a warming of the mind and spirit, like a Snuggie from heaven. Three bottles of it sit right out on the bathroom counter, waiting to be taken to the party.

Xanax dulls the jagged edges of stress and drops inhibitions to the floor. Ambien provides the joy of sleep even in one who remains awake. That Adderall your little brother stopped taking will whip you into a state of heretofore unknown mental alertness. We all know what Viagra will do for you.

Don’t feel that I am handing out advice on good-time pills, parent. Your kids know far more about this than I do.

And there they are, all these pills gathered on a table waiting to be picked up like playing cards in a mind-bending game of chance. Your sweet, straight-A Jimmy might be wandering in a glossy daze this very night and the chemical that got him there wasn’t obtained on the shadowy streets but in the purse you leave sitting on the kitchen table.

“You can’t smell a pill on your kid’s breath,” my narc friend says. “A lot of parents are completely oblivious.”

Every generation finds young people in new exploration. The boozers will always be there. Pot and acid took off in the ’60s and ’70s; Ecstasy came along in following generations, and methamphetamine still tempts teens to experimentation.

Now it’s an inside job. New drugs are unrolled daily to treat all forms of human malady, from an overachieving bladder and an underachieving libido and everything in between.

“Pills are doled out left and right,” says the drug agent. “They’re all over the place.”

And there it is. One more thing you need to worry about as you watch your little ones stumble into the recklessness of adolescence. High times sought not in ounces but in milligrams.

It’s 10 o’clock, my friends. Do you know where your pills are?

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer.


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