Markets for ADD Drugs Exist on College Campuses||
Youth Radio's Michelle Jarboe is part of the "Ritalin generation" -- kids who
have dealt with Attention Deficit drugs since elementary school.
they're in college, ADD drugs have become a hot commodity as a study aid and even
a party drug.
Michelle reports from the University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill on the black market for these drugs on campus.
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few times I took Ritalin, I got the pills from a boyfriend whose parents were
He didn't have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), but mom
and dad were willing to write him a prescription so he could stay up nights to
cram for exams. I was 17, and figured if someone's highly educated and expert
parents would casually hand him a drug, then it had to be safe.
time I tried Adderall wasn't much different - this time, the source was a friend
who got the drug from a roommate with a prescription.
Look, I wasn't a
habitual drug user. But I was driven to do well in school, and couldn't see my
way through all the papers, tests and projects on two or three hours of sleep
a night. That is, until I encountered my friends' little pills.
they were free, and sometimes a single pill could cost as much as seven or eight
dollars. Whatever the cost, the returns were amazing.
hand account of the drugs' effect|
JESSE: The whole time you're on it, you just feel like that's the way things
are supposed to be. You feel like it's gotten you normal.
Jesse Anderson, a friend of mine who used Adderall for the first time in a college
study group. Someone gave it to him, and he thought, "Sure, why not."
JESSE: I remember everyone sitting around and thinking, "You know,
maybe we all have ADD, because this stuff makes me feel great, like I don't feel
weird. I feel like I want to do my work."
MICHELLE: You can pop a
pill at midnight, he says, write a 10-page paper in a few hours and still have
time to clean your room and catch breakfast before your 8 a.m. class.
though transactions in these stimulants aren't always in the open, they don't
carry the same stigma as many recreational drugs. Jesse knows a lot of people
who won't touch marijuana - but it doesn't take much for them to chow down Adderall
without a prescription.
JESSE: Because it's made by a company, it comes
in a nice pre-packaged way. They're not going to sell anything to millions of
kids that's going to kill them. It seems relatively safe.
University counselor's perspective|
HAMRICK: When a student brings up the fact that stimulant use actually makes
them perform better, I can't deny that.
MICHELLE: That's Psychiatrist Allen
Hamrick. He says it's tough to fight abuse because the little pills work so well.
HAMRICK: The stimulant itself would lead any of us to feel more attentive
and probably do better on a test. But so would crack cocaine.
Hamrick is one of the higher-ups with UNC's Counseling and Psychological Services.
He's seen students taking 500 milligrams of Ritalin a day, a huge jump from the
10 milligrams a day typical for a new ADD patient.
Hamrick's office has
stopped prescribing stimulants to students without a full battery of psychological
tests. He says counselors worried they were contributing to the black market for
Attention Deficit drugs.
Tobias Butts, a recent UNC graduate, says the
docs are right. He saw lots of students make a killing off selling pills during
his time in college.
dealers tell their story|
TOBIAS: So, you've got roughly 90 pills, and then you sell each one of those
for $5. Do the math. That's $450 for a $30 investment. If that's not highway robbery,
then I don't know what is.
PSYCHOLOGY MAJOR: I have to stockpile that stuff
during exams and midterms.
MICHELLE: That's a psychology major who asked
to remain anonymous, since he freely shares Adderall with his friends. Using his
knowledge of ADD symptoms, and a little bit of help from the field's diagnostic
manual, he faked the learning disorder to get a prescription. He takes a small
percentage of his pills each month and gives away the rest.
MAJOR: I never have a surplus, but I have to take into consideration that demand
fluctuates depending on what kind of university-wide pressures are placed on the
users harassed for pills|
MICHELLE: Those pressures also hit students trying to protect their medications.
Melinda Manning, an assistant dean of students at UNC, talks to students every
week who say they're being pestered for their Adderall supply. She graduated from
UNC a decade ago, and says this kind of stimulant abuse didn't exist when she
was an undergrad.
MELINDA: The most my friends were taking were No-Doz
and other caffeine. I don't remember hearing of anyone who took anything like
Ritalin or Adderall. But, honestly, I didn't know any friends who were prescribed
Ritalin or Adderall for ADD. So I don't think there was any access to it at that
MICHELLE: Times have changed. Myself? I didn't consider what might
happen if I got caught taking someone else's prescription medication. Sure, my
friends and I knew sharing regulated stimulants was illegal, but it didn't seem
that different from underage drinking. Kids in every college town do it, and most
of them don't get caught.
My stint taking the pills was brief. It ended
after I realized that I'd rather fail a paper than risk dependency on a drug in
order to achieve my goals. But I still hear a lot about stimulant abuse at UNC,
and, more and more, it's not just academic. Plenty of people pop an Adderall with
a beer before heading to a party, making the night last longer...and expanding
the market for these drugs.
by Michelle Jarboe for Youth Radio