Pubdate: Sun, 28 May 2000
Source: New York Post (NY)
Copyright: 2000, N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc.
Author: Christine Langdon


College kids who are tired or bored are getting high by snorting and
shooting up prescription drugs normally prescribed for hyperactive
elementary school students, authorities say.

They're also popping the pills - Ritalin and Aderol - when cramming
for exams.

"It's really good when your brain is just saturated and you cannot
take it any more," confided Chris, a recent New York University graduate.

For as little as $2 a pop, Ritalin and Aderol have become the "poor
man's cocaine." Students say the two drugs are far more effective than
nonprescription stimulants such as coffee or No-Doz.

Using the drugs - sometimes copped from friends who've been on
prescribed Ritalin for years - makes boring tasks such as studying
seem like fun, students told The Post.

And it's easier to bum a Ritalin from a roommate than to head to a
Starbucks or a Duane Reade.

Chris, who majored in political science at NYU, said he used Ritalin
and Aderol when he was cramming for exams.

"It helps you to concentrate better. It makes you feel good, like all

He said he also crushed and snorted it to get high - but it

"You end up drinking more - I feel more thirsty for some reason," he

Chris said about a quarter of his friends have used Ritalin or Aderol,
and they get it from friends who have prescriptions for them because
they've been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.

"It is way over-prescribed. If you can't pay attention in elementary
school, they give you Ritalin for life," he said.

Doctors seem to prescribe Ritalin pretty casually, noted NYU student
Rich Mendez.

He said a classmate faked the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder
so he could get a Ritalin prescription. The student, who pulled the
scam to get Ritalin to help him study for his high-school tests, later
started selling the pills to college roommates for a profit, said Mendez, 21.

"He was making a business out of it ... The pressure to perform gets
people onto it because they think it will do them good," Mendez said.

Between 1990 and 1999, domestic sales of methylphenidate (Ritalin)
increased nearly 500 percent. Amphetamine (Aderol) production has
increased 2,000 percent, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration

The DEA brought its concerns about students abusing attention-deficit
drugs to Congress earlier this month.

Its prime concern is Ritalin - prescribed for 80 percent of patients
diagnosed with attention disorders.

Terrance Woodworth, the DEA's deputy director of diversion control,
told a congressional subcommittee that Ritalin is being used on campus
today in the same way amphetamines were used in the 1960s - as a study
aid and party drug.

"Adolescents don't have to rob a pharmacy, forge a prescription or
visit the local drug dealer to acquire methylphenidate - they have
little difficulty obtaining it from a friend or classmate," he said.

Experts disagree on the severity of Ritalin's effects.

DEA Special Agent in Charge Lewis Rice Jr. told the congressional
subcommittee Ritalin "is a powerful stimulant that can produce
tremors, hallucinations, paranoid delusions and other severe medical
consequences, including death."

But Dr. Wiley Hembree, Columbia University's student health-services
director, said the side effects are probably no worse than No Doz or
too much coffee.

NYU Counseling Services medical director Victor Schwartz agreed:
"Students have always used stimulants to study ... I don't know that
there is a reason to be more concerned about Ritalin."

"If someone is intermittently using conservative doses of mild
stimulants, I would not be overly worried about it. There is probably
a decent chance their parents did the same thing," he said.

But there could be other consequences, according to a chilling paper
published in October by Dr. Nadine Lambert, a developmental
psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley.

Lambert found that children on Ritalin are three times more likely to
develop a taste for cocaine.

Chris said he and his friends have experienced a few side

"Ritalin is like coming off coke - you crash, and I don't like that,"
Chris said. "Aderol is not nearly so bad. It's much cleaner."

And he's recommended it to friends.

"In terms of my grades, I probably did a little better because of it,"
he said.

One of the most useful studies of student Ritalin use was undertaken
last year by psychiatrists at the University of Wisconsin.

One-fifth of college students interviewed had taken Ritalin, and many
had tried other prescription drugs.

"Misuse and abuse was pretty much a part of student culture,
particularly for students in group-living situations," said Dr. Eric
Heiligenstein, the psychiatrist who led the study.

New York results would be scary, he said.

"We first heard about this from students who came here from East Coast
prep schools - in those sorts of schools, it is a rampant problem."

Doctors are not surprised.

Ritalin is popular with kids as young as 13 or 14, said Dr. Robert
Millman, director of New York Presbyterian Hospital's alcohol- and
drug-abuse service.

"The kids who have prescriptions give it to their friends because it
makes them popular," Millman said.

"I think it is a much bigger deal in big urban areas than in rural
areas because there are more psychiatrists diagnosing more Attention
Deficit Disorder and more Ritalin being prescribed."

He said kids who've been prescribed Ritalin would often do better with
antidepressants or an understanding adult.
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