Smartie Parties - it's not as innocent as it sounds. All over Ontario, teens are raiding home medicine cabinets, then throwing parties in which they pass around bowls of various prescription medications.
In 2008, 19-year-old Dustin King and 41-year-old Donna Bertrand overdosed on prescription drugs just days apart in the same Brockville, Ont. apartment.
Staff Sgt. Shawn White of the Cornwall Community Police Service is part of a task force that set up in eastern Ontario in 2009 to combat oxycodone abuse. He claims the youth who attend these parties don't realize the potency of the drugs being offered.
“They are often under the mistaken impression that these drugs must be safe if they were prescribed by a doctor,” he said.
In a 2007 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, 21% of teens admitted they'd used prescription drugs in a recreational manner. According to White, one of five students had obtained the prescription drugs illegally.
Two years later, police in Cornwall, Ont., seized 2,108 oxycodone-based tablets, with an estimated street value of $50,000.
In a two-year span, there were eight deaths linked to drug abuse in Cornwall, unheard of for a small community. “If I had eight homicides in two years, the community would be in an uproar,” said White.
White noted a simultaneous rise in property crimes due to the "feeding and funding" of oxycodone addictions. Such addictions transcend age and economic circumstance, with some health care workers stashing the drugs that are entrusted to them.
Within a four-month period in Ottawa last year, there were 30 pharmacy robberies, many of which involved “a significant amount of violence.”
White believes the key to fighting the war on prescription drugs is to have a broader pharmaceutical database and greater availability of patient prescription information. One problem is what's known as "double-doctoring", in which an addict sees different doctors in different cities to obtain an additional supply of prescription opioids.
In addition to the above changes to the pharmaceutical system, White stressed that drug education should begin as early as age 10. Kids need to know that just because you get a drug over the counter doesn't make it less deadly.