ADHD Prescription Abuse at Northeastern

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ADHD Prescription Abuse at Northeastern

Northeastern middler Gary Brown* reclines his small frame on a couch in his Mission Hill apartment. He looks like a patient on a psychiatrist's couch as he dictates his history of abuse with Ritalin and Adderall.

“I started going to concerts with a friend who had a prescription and whose nickname was Bradderall,” Brown said.

Ritalin and Adderall are prescription drugs commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Brown has never been diagnosed with ADHD but he started taking the drugs recreationally as a college freshman to have energy for concerts and for partying into the early morning hours. Soon after, Brown began taking Ritalin to study for exams. Brown was taking the pills about six times a week.

“It’s pretty easy to get,” Brown said.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) cites Ritalin, or Methylphenidate, as a central nervous system stimulant that has a focusing and calming effect on children and adults diagnosed with ADHD. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 3–5% of the general population has ADHD, which is characterized as hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. This statistic indicates that one child in every classroom in America has ADHD.

But Brown is not part of this 3-5% of the population. For Brown and others without the disorder, ADHD medications increase dopamine levels in the brain, giving the user a sense of euphoria similar to cocaine. Students at Northeastern University as well as other campuses are consuming these drugs for better academic performance and a cheap high on the college party scene. Students are taking Ritalin, Addrall, and the newest drug on the market, Conserta, either orally or crushing and snorting them to study, party, or lose weight. In some cases, kids are melting them down and shooting them up. According to Northeastern students, the drugs are very cheap and very accessible.

“Drugs like Adderall, Ritalin, and Conserta that make you focused and industrious can be very useful,” said Jeff Smith*, a Northeastern student.

Like Brown, Smith had never taken these prescriptions commonly called “study drugs” before coming to college. Smith cites increasing academic pressure as a reason for using the pills to focus and gain an edge. Both Brown and Smith receive free pills from their friends who have prescriptions but they would expect to pay $2-$5 a pill if they had to. In 2000 , NIDA’s Community Epidemiology Work Group found the abuse of methylphenidate (Ritalin) in Boston to be prevalent amongst middle and high school students; especially in middle- and upper-middle class communities.

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