The latest trend in the name of ‘”love of death” in US is called “Pharm Party”. Children, mostly teenagers, steal drugs from their parents’ drawers and later take them randomly and without limits together with their friends. They even mix them up, as if they were chips or popcorn. They mix up anti-inflammatory and anti-flu medicines, painkillers, even anti-depressants, and drugs of all kinds and levels of toxicity. The result is a lethal cocktail, or a mortal fruit salad. A kind of Russian roulette based on pills, taken in handfuls from a bowl, often along with alcohol. A devastating mix.
Public Opinion was the first newspaper to spread the news in 2002, after a teenager entered into a coma after having attended such a party. A 17-year-old high-school student, Corey Suazo, died because of a poisonous mix of pain-killers and cocaine. This unhealthy habit seems to have become such a widespread custom on the New Continent, that Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency that regulates medicines, mentioned an “epidemic” and published a video on its site to raise awareness about the problem and give advice on how to avoid accidents. Hospital admissions have increased and there is high risk of its “importation” also on the Old Continent, where it might spread among young people, as it happens with almost all the “Made in USA” trends. Even if it does not happen, considering that it is in an American practice, there are still reasons for public, ethic, educational, and cultural alert, as well as for a priority for the health system.
In US, was denounced excessive use of drugs by over half the population, and even abuse of medical prescriptions, especially painkillers, anti-depressants, and cough medicines. It is a slap in the face of those who admire the country of the Big Apple.
In Italy, in the Annual Report of the Minister of Health, Beatrice Lorenzin, the Parliament, in 2015, was denounced the dangerous phenomenon of the so-called “binge drinking” among young people, mainly between 18 and 24 years of age: immoderate consumption of alcohol, actual binging, often on an empty stomach, to get drunk faster, seriously damaging their health, immune system and heart. This equally insane fashion concern about 8 million and half Italians. While a couple of years ago people talked about “vampirism”, that is, blood drinking, inspired to sagas. Also the number of Italians who experience mental disorders of varying intensity is growing: at least one in three; over 70 percent of the disease appear under the age of 25.
We discussed it with the psychiatrist Paolo Crepet.
What pushes young people towards these forms of sick sociality, which sickens, with destructive and self-harming behavior patterns?
“These young people were born in a society that lives on chemistry. We have pills for everything: to lose or gain weight, for good sex, for happiness. They copy our behavior and exasperate them. Medicine abuse among adults is now a fact and it is often linked to pleasure, not the need. No wonder the boys grew up in this drug company for everything you improperly use, for recreational reasons. But, there is a second, sociological aspect we need to highlight, namely, that families no longer exist. Parents, adults, are absent. There are irresponsible fathers and mothers, leave their children alone at home, sometimes for days. And there is social tolerance towards this situation, as if it were inevitable. ‘What can you do? That the way things are, people say. Yet, it is not inevitable.”
What is the connection between certain practices, such as Pharm Party, and desire for freedom, attraction to danger, and fascination with death in young people?
“It is a characteristic of adolescence and young age, desire for freedom, the need to discover and cross the limits. And fascination of death. There is a song by Lucio Battisti, which dates back to the seventies, called ‘Emotions” and it goes as follows:’ Driving without headlights in the night, to see if it’s so difficult to die’. Fascination with death was also investigated by great writers such as Goethe. Time changes the shape, not the substance. But this is no consolation, nor a reason to passively accept what happens. Today’s kids are also very bored of living and their quest for emotions is related to chemistry.”
What distinguishes a fad, even a harmful one, from a true psychiatric disorder, and how shall they be dealt with?
“Disorders do not follow fashions. They are two different phenomena. Those who read newspapers, participate in discussions on Social Networks, who has knowledge, has not psychiatric disorders. An attentive and responsible presence of the adults is the best form of intervention and prevention.”
There are cultural, educational, and political responsibilities?
“Yes, absoluetely. Because politics is done by the worst parents.”
Th number of citizens who appeal to mental health centers is growing in Italy. Can we call it a social disease, today? What causes it?
“The increase of a request for mental health care services does not necessarily imply an increase of discomfort. We ask public help because the private one costs too much. It is the easiest way to get drugs prescription. The data, however, are worrisome also with regard to the consumption of psycho-drugs in Europe. Economic crisis, the rise of the difficulties and everyday insecurities, uncertainty and insecurity lead individual and social imbalance”.
What are young people looking for today and what we can offer them, for a healthy social life and for their proper development?
“First of all, today it is difficult to define young age. There are 40-year-old people who feel young men boys and 12-year-old children who feel that they are already adults. Parameters have changed. Teenagers need healthy models and good rules to accompany their growth”.