This is a feature article I wrote for Backdrop in 2009 at Ohio University. I apologize for not providing the pictures that were with the storybut the links are broken.
Ashley meets someone on the steps of Alden Library and exchanges three oblong, orange-colored Adderall capsules for $18. This doesn’t seem like a typical drug deal — there’s something about it that seems totally legal, like selling off other things you have but do not want or need — but a drug deal is exactly what this is. Ashley (a nickname used to protect her identity) is a sophomore journalism student, and she has been selling Adderall on campus for about a year.
“My first clients were upperclassmen, my boyfriend’s older brother and his roommates, who offered to pay me for some of my [Adderall] when they heard I had a prescription,” she said.
Ashley was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and prescribed Adderall in fifth grade. She was weaned off the medication in high school.
“When I got ready to go to college, my psychiatrist offered to renew my prescription, but warned me that people would want to buy it,” she said.
Ashley said she sells to more than 16 people, most of them students, some of whom call up to three times a week. She claims to have made around $120 in a single day selling her Adderall. The going rate for her 30 mg, time-release Adderall — perhaps the most sought-after dosage and type of the psychostimulant in town — is $6 a pill.
In 2005, only 4 percent of Ohio University students admitted to using Ritalin or other prescription drugs for non-medical reasons, according to OU’s Alcohol and Other Drug Survey. Two years later, this figure jumped to 11 percent.
Adderall, America’s most widely prescribed drug for ADHD, and Ritalin are used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder and ADHD. They have a high potential for abuse and addiction.
The CVS on Court Street reported that out of the 3,200 people who filled prescriptions during the month of October, only about 5.6 percent were receiving medications for ADD and ADHD. However, the scientific journal Addiction reported that 54 percent of college students surveyed who were diagnosed with ADHD had been approached to sell, trade or give away their meds in the past year, and the number of people getting their hands on stimulants illegally could be much more significant than CVS’s 5.6 percent.
The question to ask here is: Why are so many college students looking for a drug used primarily to treat learning disabilities?
According to andorrapediatrics.com, Adderall and Ritalin enhance brain activity and improve performance. They assist people with ADD and ADHD in sustaining their attention for a longer amount of time. These drugs do the same thing to people without ADD and ADHD. However, the Journal of the American Medical Association, said the problem with abuse doesn’t stem from too few diagnoses. The Journal reported that the number of people diagnosed ADHD is accurate in comparison to the number of people who actually have the learning disability. A patient has to undergo rigorous testing and their work and school histories are investigated to determine whether or not they have ADD or ADHD. The point is that not just anyone can walk into a doctor’s office and demand a prescription for Adderall.
OU students illegally seek study-aids to such a degree that Hudson Health Center’s pharmacy refuses to carry any amphetamines. Daniel Hudson, a pharmacist there, said the director feels the health center would be at risk for robberies or assaults if it carried Adderall or other amphetamines.
“There isn’t a pharmacy in the country that hasn’t been broken into four or five times. [The] amphetamines are always targeted,” he said. The CVS on Court Street reported having only one robbery in the past several years.
Terry Koons, the associate director of pre
vention education at OU, along with other experts, speculates that prescription drugs are viewed by students as “legitimate” and “safe” because they can be taken orally and are seemingly “more” legal than other illicit drugs. Because of a prescription drug’s assumed “legitimacy,” Koons speculates that certain studies might not be able to accurately represent how many OU students are abusing the so-called “kiddy coke.”
John, an OU senior, said he sells his prescribed Adderall for very cheap to his friends, who use it for academic purposes. He said the people to whom he sells take Adderall for reasons all across the board — from lack of motivation and apathy to concentration problems and time crunches.
“I wouldn’t consider myself ADD,” John said. “I just have no motivation.”
The only real difference John said he could feel when he takes Adderall is that, without it, he would never even begin to study. After taking Adderall, John said he becomes mentally aware that he needs to start working. Past its academic perks, the drug is not an enjoyable experience for John, who dislikes the side effects, such as nausea and the urge to chain-smoke.
“I personally don’t enjoy the effects of Adderall,” John said. “I hate the way it makes me feel. I’m not a nice guy during finals week.”
Carol, a junior majoring in international studies, said she uses Adderall illegally when she knows her studying is going to take several hours.
“I know that if I don’t take Adderall I’m going to give up after only a few hours. I’ll start making excuses and convince myself I’m prepared for a test even when I know I’m not,” she said. Carol described studying on Adderall as being simply “more fun.”
“I feel better, more alert, and the information just seems more interesting,” she said. “Time goes by faster and all the other things I could be doing just don’t tempt me the way they do when I study without it.”
Koons said that Adderall has many of the same effects as cocaine. When it’s snorted, the health risks of Adderall increase, because it enters the blood stream more directly. Snorting Adderall or Ritalin can cause damages to the nasal and sinus cavities, respiratory problems, irregular heartbeats, psychotic episodes and even death by toxic shock. Koons said that some types of time-released Adderall, which enter the blood stream slowly, cause the body to build up a tolerance to the amphetamine.
Adderall and other ADHD medications have been linked to 25 deaths in recent years.
Despite the OU Alcohol and Other Drug Survey’s reports, Koons, who is involved in the judiciary and intervention process at OU, said he deals almost exclusively with marijuana and alcohol users. Further, there is no rule in the Student Code of Conduct that deals specifically with prescription drugs. In fact, not one person has gone through OU’s judiciary process for dealing or abusing them. The OU Judiciary Office reported that if a student were caught either dealing or abusing prescription drugs he or she would be treated in the same manner as someone caught selling marijuana, which is dealt with on a case-by-case basis and for which there is no set punishment.
“It would be difficult to detect if someone was abusing prescription drugs,” Koons said. “It would take quite a bit to determine impairment.”
The effects of Adderall, such as being talkative or hyper, could be attributed to several other things such as coffee, caffeine pills, sugar or just a bubbly personality. Therefore, in order to be caught, Koons said that another person would have to be aware of abuse.
According to U.S. law, selling a Schedule II drug (like Adderall) is a class B felony (maximum penalty 10 years in prison and $10,000 fine) and possessing another person’s amphetamine carries the same charge as possessing methamphetamine, a Class C felony (maximum penalty 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine).
Ashley, the dealer who claimed to have made $120 in a day, said, “I know what I’m doing is a felony, but the likelihood of getting caught is so low and I make so much money, that I just don’t care.”