You are probably thinking, “what a weird headline,” and you would be correct. But what exactly am I talking about? Skittles are delicious and part of a nutritious diet, right? I am not talking about those Skittles (candies). Today’s column topic is going to be a little rough and hit home with some of you. There is a term used in the teen world (and on the streets), and it is a well-known term called “Skittles Party.”. “Skittles Parties" are a dangerous and growing trend that's sending teens to the hospital. Teens raid the family medicine cabinets and dump/add the collection of prescription and non-prescription drugs into a bowl at a party, and then the teens take handfuls of pills with alcohol to get high. It's a game of Russian roulette, essentially.

Another term used is “pharming parties.” The former term Skittles Party is more commonly used in Newton County. Our community has recently experienced teen casualties, (Yes! More than one), as a direct result of these types of parties. There is a new report from ‘Trust for Americas Health’ that revealed drug overdose death rates among 12 to 25-year-olds had risen dramatically in most states over the past 15 years. Overdose death rates have more than doubled in 18 states, more than tripled in 12 states, and quadrupled in five states. We are losing too many teens and young people to this! According to several professional studies, the general thought process in the minds of these young people is that the medications they are consuming are safer than a street drug because a Doctor prescribed the medicines. Folks, we can’t completely prevent this from happening, as people always find a way, but we can do our absolute best to limit access and make it as difficult as possible for our kids and our loved ones to get ahold of these prescriptions. I have been asked on more than one occasion about what are some things a parent can do to help. One of the easiest and possibly most effective ways is to lock it up. Lock up those medications, place them in a secure location, and lock them up. If you are done with a medication, dispose of it properly. There are medication disposal sites at the Newton County Sheriff’s Office and the Neosho Police Department. Simply walk to the box in the lobby, put them in the box, then walk off. No questions asked. Another great suggestion is to keep track of the number of pills in the bottle daily. We, as parents, all want to think our sons or daughters are better than this. We all believe they will not have anything to do with these parties.

I can tell you from prior experience in working in a Law Enforcement capacity, alongside teachers, administrators, and Counselors, our kids face an overwhelming amount of peer pressure daily. Peer pressure is a very powerful force that some lose the battle to. I can’t say this enough. One death is too many. If you need more information on this, please get with me or a local health professional and learn as much as you can about this problem!

Newton County Community Coalition Vision: A safe and healthy, drug and alcohol-free, youth community across all of Newton County.

Newton County Community Coalition Mission: We strive to prevent drug and alcohol abuse and other risky behaviors among youth through collaboration, education, empowerment, early-intervention, and community transformation efforts throughout Newton County.

Are you interested in making a difference in Newton County? Come join the Newton County Community Coalition, where we are discussing how the Coalition provides substance abuse prevention strategies with current target areas of youth alcohol use, marijuana use, prescription drug abuse, and tobacco issues.

To get in touch with someone at the Coalition, please contact me or one of our Board members at newtoncountycoalition@gmail.com. Board President: John Ball, Ball-john@kneo.org or Board Vice President: Jeff Higgins, jhigginsatc@gmail.com

Check out our Facebook page@ https://www.facebook.com/groups/489182691248202

The Coalition meets from noon-1 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month. The meeting location is the Talkington Building, 209 N. Valley Street, Neosho.

A Drug-Free Communities Coalition is supported by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

­-Phillip Whiteman is the DFCCoordinator/Program Director for the Newto