Dad shares devastating story of the 'skittles party' that led to his son's death

Illicit drugs are available at sale prices for the holiday season.
Illicit drugs are available at sale prices for the holiday season. Photo: Getty Images

While the term "skittle party" might conjure up images of colourful lollies and innocent fun, the true definition is anything but. In fact, skittles parties are shockingly dangerous.

Before attending a skittles parties, teenagers raid their parent's medicine cabinets and get their hands on as much medication as they can. At the party, they pool the prescription and over-the-counter drugs they've gathered into a communal bowl. Partygoers then take handfuls of pills, often with alcohol to get high.

The parties, also known as "pharming parties", are like playing Russian roulette, because pills are taken in totally random assortments.

Several teenagers in California were recently rushed to hospital after attending a skittles party. According to KTVU all five students that overdosed are going to be okay.

However, Mitchell Maxwell, a teenager from Knoxville, Tennessee, was not so lucky. He was found dead in his bed the morning after attending a skittles party in 2013. He had died from a drug overdose.

The skittles party took place just four days before Mitchell was due to leave for college.

Speaking to WVLT, his father Austin Maxwell said: "You worry more about drinking and driving rather than a party with prescription drugs. It's a huge problem. There has to be more education because it's just as dangerous as anything else out there."

He continues: "He went to a party thought he could do it once but never got that second chance."

According to a new report from Trust for America's Health, a not for profit organisation, drug misuse is a growing problem. The report revealed that drug overdose deaths have more than doubled in 18 American states, more than tripled in 12 states and quadrupled in five states. The highest overdose rates were in West Virginia and the lowest were North Dakota.

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Dr Sharon Levy, director of the adolescent substance abuse program at Boston Children's Hospital, and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, told Yahoo Parenting that typically, teens do not know what they are taking. "They might find pain medication, sedatives, or barbiturates. These are highly-controlled medications.

"Taking sedatives [alone] can risk an overdose. By mixing them, you vastly increase your risk of overdosing. You can stop breathing or have your heart stop," she explains.

Levy notes that teens may mistakenly think prescription drugs are safer or less addictive than street drugs because a doctor has prescribed them.

"They'll assume because it's a pharmaceutical product that it doesn't have the same risks [as street drugs]," says Levy.

"They will assume that they're safe, and that's just wrong. These medications have a very high abuse potential. People can absolutely become addicted to them."

To keep prescription drugs away from teens, Levy recommends that parents put all their medications in a secure place. "If the dad had a knee replacement and there are a whole bunch of drugs in the medicine cabinet, they need to be in a place that's not easily accessible," Levy says.

Levy also suggests that parents take note of how many pills are in a bottle and says its vital to discard medication when it's no longer needed.

"People hang onto the leftover pills thinking, 'maybe I'll need it again so I'll just save it,'" explains Levy.

"That's a big mistake because kids can get into it. Even if you think your kid would never do it, you don't know what their friends might do. A medicine cabinet is an exposed place, and it wouldn't be hard for someone to take them."

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