Debunking "pharm parties" for the third time.

Media criticism.
March 25 2008 6:03 PM

Down on the Pharm, Again

Debunking "pharm parties" for the third time.

(Continued from Page 1)

What these kids are doing, basically, are acquiring drugs from either their medicine cabinets, their doctors or friends—their doctors—their relatives or their friends. And they're taking the drugs and they're coming to these parties where they throw the drugs into a bowl and then they systematically take the drugs out and take them.

They really don't know what they're taking. It could be a benzodiazepine. It could be a narcotic. It could be anything. And they just take them.

And so they don't know what they're ingesting, and this is a form of—just a form of adolescent partying now.

When Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R-Va., asked, "It's becoming a widespread concern?" Rannazzisi responded weakly, "We've had several reports throughout the country, yes." [Emphasis added.]


I polled three reputable scholars on the topic of pharm parties. Berkeley scientist David Presti responded, "I am only familiar with this term through various references in the media." Mark A.R. Kleiman, drug-policy expert at UCLA, e-mailed, "New one on me, but that doesn't convey much information one way or the other." Richard Rawson, associate director of UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs and professor-in-residence at the UCLA Department of Psychiatry, had this to say:

I have heard rumors of pharm parties for about three years and have seen reports on the Web. However, I have never spoken with an actual kid who has ever actually attended one of these events. I have no doubt that kids are using/abusing prescription drugs and this is concerning, but about these parties, they make a good story.


Phun Pharm-Party Phact: The first Nexis hit for pharm parties is a reader's comment in the Aug. 9, 2005, Louisville Courier-Journal. The earliest mention I located ran in the March 8, 2002, Chambersburg, Pa., Public Opinion. Here's what it said:

With prescription drug abuse, the scene could be much different. In some communities, kids have "pharming" parties. They go to their parents' or grandparents' medicine cabinets and take whatever drugs are there. At the parties, they throw the pills in a bowl and take a handful, [Pamela] Bennett [a flack for Purdue Pharma, makers of OxyContin] said. The pills could be Viagra, antibiotics, blood pressure medication or anything else.

The last time I visited this subject I asked readers to send e-mail if they had ever attended a soiree under the pharm-party rubric. Nobody had. I renew the request: Send e-mail to (E-mail may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum, in a future article, or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)

Track my errors: Here's a hand-built RSS feed that will ring every time Slate runs a "Press Box" correction. For e-mail notification of errors in this specific column, type the word pharm in the subject head of an e-mail message and send it to

Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at