Students use medications like Concerta
or Ritalin to stay up all night and combat
procrastination. Academic validation has
become one of the main catalysts for anxiety
among students, and it is thus not surprising
that many use medications to help them reach
their academic goals. PDBY engaged with
students and an expert to ascertain the extent of
the possible problem at UP.

Medications like Concerta and Ritalin are central nervous system stimulants that cross the blood-brain barrier and can be described as ‘uppers’. This means that they have the effect of increasing energy, alertness, and heightening feelings, leaving one in the midst of a euphoric experience. Concerta and Ritalin are known as legal uppers that one may acquire with a valid prescription from an authorised doctor. This takes place once a person has been correctly diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder. The medications are impossible to source without a valid prescription, and illegal prescription drug dealers have used this to their advantage.

These stimulants have been sold on and around campus for several years now, resulting in many students becoming dependent on a little and very expensive pill. PDBY spoke to a student, ‘Apple’, who wished to remain anonymous and who had daily engagement with a prescription drug dealer.

Apple said that the trading of these drugs is still very prevalent on campus and that students have paid up to R50 for a single 30 mg Ritalin pill. The dealers use Whatsapp to communicate with clients, and the transaction is usually seamless. Many students are usual clients of these dealers and have spent thousands of rands buying illegal drugs. PDBY further conducted an Instagram poll to gauge the number of students that have ever solicited illegal stimulants from someone on campus, and ten viewers responded that they have.

Apple also said that these dealers often take the stimulants into clubs and sell them as ‘party drugs’. The drugs prevent the users from losing consciousness and put them into a state of abnormal hyperawareness. Students normally crush the pills into a fine powder and snort them, just like a user would with a substance like cocaine. It is also not unusual to observe students snorting the stimulants on campus during a stressful academic season. PDBY spoke to another student, ‘Lemon’, who observed their friend create something called a ‘concentration cocktail’, where various stimulants including Concerta or Ritalin are used together with energy drinks and, occasionally, other illegal substances.

PDBY then spoke to Annerine Riga, a substance abuse counsellor, on the dangers of using unauthorised medications such as central nervous system stimulants. She expressed that there is a great difference between a person who has been correctly diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder using prescription stimulants and a person who uses an unauthorised stimulant. Riga further stated that students who buy Concerta or Ritalin from dealers on or around campus have no true idea of the milligrams of the pill or if the pill contains illegal substances. Doctors prescribe a specific dosage to a person, depending on various factors such as the person’s weight and actual needs.

It is incredibly dangerous for a person to consume an incorrect dosage of Ritalin or Concerta, as it may cause the user to have severe anxiety, dizziness, and even worse nervous system symptoms. If the drug contains illegal ingredients in the case of a ‘concentration cocktail’, it may even be fatal. A student can very easily become dependent on the stimulant, and an addiction is formed when the stimulant is abused.

Concerta and cocaine are both ‘uppers’ and cause the user to have a euphoric experience. In an article published by the American Addiction Centre, Concerta and cocaine are classified in the same category. Although the severity of the effects may vary, they are similar. When one abuses Concerta or Ritalin in larger amounts, it will produce similar effects to those of cocaine. This is why Concerta and Ritalin are controlled substances. Students may find themselves on a slippery and dangerous slope when abusing nervous system stimulants.

Riga thus said that students should be vigilant and should avoid buying these unauthorised stimulants from dealers at all costs. If you suspect that you are struggling with an attention deficit disorder, it is safer to contact your doctor for a correct diagnosis.

Kyra Erwee
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