At age 14, Brittany Gaydosh, walked into a New Year's Eve party at a friend's house, drank a couple of shots of Bacardi 151 rum, and made her way to a Ziploc bag filled with pills.
"There were Ecstasy, Xanax, Percocets, Valium and other pills in the bag that night," Gaydosh said. "I took four Ecstasy pills and a Xanax."
Throughout her teenage years, Gaydosh attended at least 20 parties like this, the now 23-year-old said. She would take handfuls of pills, wash some down with alcohol, and save the rest for later. And she's not alone. According to experts, such parties, known as "Skittles parties" (because of the brightly colored pills) or "pharm parties," have rapidly gained popularity among teens.
"At a lot of the parties, they just throw the pills on the table," Gaydosh said. "It's like candy that you can take home with you."
Teens are taking painkillers, mainly highly addictive opioids such as OxyContin and Vicodin, from medicine cabinets in their own homes, said Dr. Petros Levounis, director of the Addiction Institute of New York in Manhattan.
"They're getting these prescription pills from parents or grandparents," Levounis said. "Say I go to the dentist for a tooth extraction and I get 30 painkillers and maybe take one. My granddaughter could go into my medicine cabinet without me knowing and bring the rest of the pills to a party."
A recent report from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that each year, more people die from prescription painkiller overdoses than from heroin and cocaine overdoses combined.