By Richard Laliberte
Emmy Hall was only 13 the first time she got high on "Vikes." She'd had a serious ear infection, and her doctor recommended Vicodin, a medicine commonly prescribed for severe pain. "I knew you could get high on it, but I'd never had temptation so close at hand," she says. Her mother, who had no reason not to trust Emmy, had stored the bottle in the medicine cabinet. "I popped two or three at first, then a couple more an hour later," Emmy recalls. "I got really loaded, but I figured doing 'Vikes' was harmless because they're legal." When a girlfriend urged her to try "Skittles" -- slang for over-the-counter cough and cold tablets -- Emmy was game. "The words kids use for drugs are cute and make you think of fun things like candy," she explains. "That makes you less tense about taking them. But once you start, you want to keep moving on to the next exciting thing."
For Emmy, "Skits" were the gateway to methamphetamines. The good girl who had attended a private religious school became a full-blown addict at 14 and repeatedly ran away from home, returning only when she needed money. Arrested for meth possession in 2004, she was placed in rehab, and after five hard months came back to Grants Pass, Oregon, where she's now a high school senior. "I'm blessed with family and friends who support me," says Emmy, 18. "But I still cry sometimes knowing that some of the girls I was in treatment with are back on the streets or dead -- and that I was one step away from the same fate."