Pubdate: Sun, 18 Nov 2001
Source: Oklahoman, The (OK)
Copyright: 2001 The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
Author: Martha Irvine, AP National Writer, Associated Press
Bookmark: (Club Drugs)

She had no idea she had a popular party drug on hand. To her, the vial of 
prescription pills she'd once been given to treat attention deficit 
disorder were just leftovers, until a friend from New York called to ask if 
she'd mail out a few, just for fun.

The woman, a 29-year-old San Diego resident, didn't do it. But she and her 
friends were intrigued.

"We said, 'We should just try it. It could be fun,'" says the woman who, on 
the condition that she not be named, told how they partied on the drug once 
this summer and again in September.

In this case, the stimulant of choice was Adderall, an amphetamine. Others 
use methylphenidate, another attention-deficit drug more widely known by 
one of its brand names: Ritalin.

Whatever the type, authorities are concerned about ADD drug abuse.

Some unprescribed users are adults. But experts say many are young people, 
a good number of them grade schoolers, who get the drugs from peers being 
treated for ADD.

"They've got pretty easy access to it," says Steve Walton, a detective with 
the Calgary Police Service in Canada and author of the book "First Response 
Guide to Street Drugs."

Users often crush the pills and snort them to get a cocaine-like rush.

Walton says he's also found youth who frequent the rave dance-party scene 
"stacking" the drug Ecstasy with Ritalin to try and prolong their high. He 
calls the practice "alarming."

Reports of ADD stimulant abuse continue to surface in this country, too. 
They include the case of two rural teens arrested in January for stealing 
$9,700 worth of drugs, including Ritalin and amphetamines, from a pharmacy 
in tiny Lacon, Ill.

In March, 11 sixth-graders in Scituate, R.I., were suspended for buying and 
selling prescription drugs, including Adderall and Concerta, a newer form 
of methylphenidate.

Surveys of young people, from Massachusetts to the Midwest, also have 
documented the trend.

One of them, published in this month's Psychology in the Schools journal, 
focussed on 651 students, ages 11 to 18, from Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Researchers found that more than a third of students who took 
attention-deficit medication said they'd been asked to sell or trade their 
drugs. And more than half of students who weren't prescribed the medication 
said they knew students who gave away or sold their medication.

"I've been trying to tell anyone who will listen," says William 
Frankenberger, study co-author and a psychology professor at the University 
of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. "People don't realize what these drugs are, and 
that the similarities between them and cocaine are much greater than the 

Officials at the federal Drug Enforcement Administration say abuse of 
prescription stimulants became more common in the last five years, as 
production of Ritalin increased and other drugs were introduced into the 

But some, including doctors, wonder if new "time-release" versions of the 
drugs are slowing the abuse.

They include Concerta, taken just once a day, so an ADD child doesn't have 
to bring the drugs to school. Time-release versions are also more difficult 
to crush and, thus, snort, says Dr. Timothy Wilens, a Harvard Medical 
School psychiatry professor.

A national survey released in September by the General Accounting Office 
found that only 8 percent of principals said stimulant drugs were abused or 
stolen in their schools in the 2000-2001 school year. Most of those said 
they knew of only one incident.

But Terrance Woodworth, deputy director of the DEA's diversion control 
office, isn't convinced that abuse is down.

In fact, he thinks the age range is expanding, even as makers of some of 
the drugs, including Ritalin, have launched their own education campaigns 
to try to curb misuse.

"The kids who were abusing in junior high and high school are now in 
college," Woodworth says. That has caused some colleges, including the 
University of Wisconsin, to tighten prescription-writing procedures for 
such drugs as Ritalin, which some students call "Vitamin R" and use to help 
them pull all-nighters.

Although alcohol abuse remains a much worse and visible problem, students 
on the Madison campus can only get one prescription per month, and only 
enough pills for that month, says Dr. Eric Heiligenstein, clinical director 
of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin Health Services.

At Harvard, Wilens advises his patients, especially students, to "keep 
their medications locked away in clandestine places so that strays don't 
steal it from them."

He says those on the medication aren't usually the abusers. In fact, a 
study he presented last month at the American Academy of Child and 
Adolescent Psychiatry conference found that those who were treated with 
prescription stimulants were half as likely to abuse alcohol or drugs.

For her part, the 29-year-old from San Diego says she has no plans to party 
with Adderall again.

"I just try to remember how I felt after," she says, recounting that a 
feeling of "utmost clarity" turned to insomnia and left her "crashed out 
and overdone" the following day.

Then in the next breath, she admits she's kept 20 of the pills.

"I don't know why," she says. "Maybe for a special occasion."
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