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'Skittles parties' on Long Island raise concerns

Hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen pills, also known as

Hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen pills, also known as Vicodin, are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy. (Feb. 19, 2013) Credit: AP

The "Skittles party" trend, identified by drug experts and police as bashes where opioid pain pills are served to teenagers from a parent's raided medicine cabinet, has hit Long Island and is "as dangerous as playing Russian roulette," Assemb. Joseph Saladino said Wednesday.

Saladino, a Massapequa Republican, and several other elected officials and community leaders denounced the trend during a State Senate committee meeting on heroin and prescription drug use held Wednesday at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.

The parties were one of many issues discussed in detail at the meeting, during which experts from the fields of medicine, law enforcement, addiction treatment and school social work gave testimony.

Among the other issues were the need for more drug education in Long Island schools and additional treatment options for young drug addicts.

Skittles parties, named after the fruit-flavored, bite-size candies, have been reported by addiction experts and law enforcement officials in several states during the past decade, but Wednesday was the first public acknowledgment of a local problem by Long Island officials.

The parties are "going on in our communities today" and should serve as a wake-up call for parents who believe their high-school-aged students are unable to access and abuse opioid pills, state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) said.

During an anti-drug event he attended at a Long Island high school last year, Martins said most students said they were familiar with the parties.

"If you think it's not happening, it is," Martins said. "Not only did these kids on Long Island know exactly what I was talking about, but they very clearly had already participated."

Authorities at the hearing urged parents to secure their medications so children can't access them, and to properly dispose of pills that are old or will not be used.

Among those who testified was Jeffrey Reynolds, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, who said his organization hears about Skittles parties on a "fairly regular basis."

He said he has rarely seen a case where alcohol isn't involved at these parties, "which dramatically increases the risk of an overdose."

"To me, it says we haven't done enough to educate them about prescription meds," Reynolds said.

With Mackenzie Issler

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