Popping Pills: Drugs Behind the Counter

They know it’s wrong. They know it’s dangerous. They know it’s illegal. They do it anyway.
 

But these dealers lurk just outside the framework of conventional morality. They illegally sell legal substances, known more for study aid than mind-altering recreation. And Staples students use their drugs, mainly Ritalin, Adderall, and Vyvanse, to make the most out of the 24 hours in any given day.

As a group, the dealers have no consistent mentality. Some sell for the money. Some sell to help friends in need. Some sell in bathroom stalls and others on weekends. They’ve all mastered the art of deception in different ways, creatively covering their tracks to avoid detection.

Unlike most commonly dealt drugs, ADHD medicines are completely legal, prescribed by medical professionals to combat one of the most common behavioral disorders. The stimulants help people avoid distractions and begin a task.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 10 million kids had been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2007, of which 3 million were medicated. By 2010, however, the number had risen to 18 million.

Compared to other prescription drugs such as painkillers, the addiction rates and side effects of ADHD medicines are fairly tame. Kids in grade school however, aren’t lectured on the dangers of Adderall as they are about other “hard” drugs. The average drug ring doesn’t specialize in Ritalin.

So the market exists, and the differing motives and morals of the dealers shed light on sharply differing opinions about the necessity of these drugs in the first place.

The Power of Money

Generally speaking, there are two things that most of these sellers have in common: One, they have all been prescribed with ADHD, giving them access to the drugs. Two, they want to turn a profit. And in most cases, they do.

“I used to sell because it was extremely easy money,” said one anonymous sellser of drugs, who sold his excess pills to friends for $5 each.

He isn’t alone. All the ADHD drug sellers interviewed for this story listed their average price per pill as between $3 and $7. That adds up quickly.

“I know of a kid who paid off his whole college tuition and two cars by selling prescription drugs over his four years as a college student,” Cooper Yurkiw ’12 said.

But there are exceptions to the rule. Money isn’t the only reason people turn to dealing. Many dealers aren’t in any serious financial trouble. In fact, some people even give away their pills for free, listing their motivation as a desire to help those in need.

“I only started selling because one of my friends really needed them but couldn’t get prescribed,” said one anonymous dealer.

All the dealers interviewed for this story shared a desire to make money, but they didn’t have much else in common.

Alterior Motives

The dissimilarities start with the reasons why they were prescribed the drugs in the first place. Not all of them used or even felt like they needed their medications.

One student interviewed for this story finished freshman year with a 1.4 GPA. She continued to struggle throughout her sophomore year. But when she was prescribed 70 milligrams of vyvanse, everything changed. By junior year, she had jumped a full two points to a 3.4. To evade the detection of her parents, she would only sell a few pills at a time.

But another dealer was less convinced that his prescription helped his schoolwork.

“I’ve always maintained that I’ve never really needed them,” said the anonymous seller of drugs. He claimed that he stopped taking the drugs due to its “terrible side-effects,” including grogginess, sleep troubles, and “general zombie-like characteristics.” This meant he had extra pills to sell.

The first student agreed that using his medication came with unexpected consequences. While she could not “make it through a day of school without them,” the side-effects of the drugs made her question her decision to use them in the first place.

“The meds pretty much saved my ass, but I also regret going on them,” she said. “I’ve become dependent.”

An Ethical Issue

But the biggest difference among the dealers is morality. Some believe that what they do is wrong. Others don’t.

The student who sold her drugs to help a friend in need saw no problem with the practice.

“The medication I’m on isn’t used to get people high,” she said. “It can benefit almost anyone.”

A senior boy who sells his prescribed ADHD medicine also took a more cavalier approach to his behavior, claiming that it was not his right to regulate someone else’s morality.

“I care about morals, but if somebody wants to do something, they should be allowed to,” he said.

However, the seller who claimed that he didn’t need the drugs is more ambivalent.

He acknowledges the illegality of selling his medications and fears how his customers might react to the drugs. But he also thinks that the buyers’ motives must be taken into account.

“It is immoral to sell the drugs like I did,” he said, “But when you look at what the people are using these drugs for, is it truly that evil?”