The informal trade of Concerta and Ritalin among UP students is believed to be somewhat prolific. While this informal practice has carried on for several years, its facilitation through academic WhatsApp groups has become a recent trend among students. To obtain a broader perspective on the trade Illegal prescription drug trade hits UP of Concerta and Ritalin among UP students, PDBY enquired with UP Spokesperson, Thamie Mthembu, about this informal and unlawful trade.Mthembu confirmed that “two separate cases were reported to the [UP] authorities last year, involving students who allegedly advertised the sale of schedule six medication on student WhatsApp groups. The incidents were immediately investigated and referred to the University’s legal department for further action.”
At the time of print, PDBY was made aware of individuals selling Concerta or Ritalin on WhatsApp groups within the faculties of law, engineering and humanities. PDBY posed as a buyer and contacted a seller who advertised “concentration pills” on one of these WhatsApp groups. The seller said they could not disclose the name of these “concentration pills” but guaranteed that they work for 12-14 hours, pricing them at R55 per pill. The seller said that the pills could be collected on campus, but that because they have their regular clients, they will need to receive new stock before selling again.
“two separate cases were reported to the [UP] authorities last year, involving students who allegedly advertised the sale of schedule six medication on student WhatsApp groups.
PDBY then interviewed two sellers, both UP students, who have actively engaged in this unlawful practice. According to one of the sellers, who deals both Concerta and Ritalin, Ritalin is more prevalent among students on campus, however, both it and Concerta are widely used. The student, who has sold these substances on campus for over 18 months, says that they get student buyers from all faculties. Most of these students, however, are engineering and law students.
Furthermore, the seller explained that they have a prescription for Ritalin and sell pills to students who do not have such a prescription. They also noted that they have a friend with a Concerta prescription, from whom they buy Concerta and then sell to others. The seller explained that over the past year, they had about 20 different students they sold to, five of whom they referred to as “regular customers”. They also confirmed that sales peak during certain times of the year, such as Engineering Week.
In addition to the use of these prescription pills for study purposes, the seller added that some students use the substances for partying purposes. When asked about how they price their Ritalin, the seller explained that they sell a 20mg Ritalin pill for R40 and a 30mg pill for R50, adding that they knew of others who sold 10mg pills too. These prices are similar to prices advertised on a particular academic WhatsApp group, which advertised 18mg Concerta pills for R35 and 36mg Concerta pills for R45.
“seller explained that they have a prescription for Ritalin and sell pills to students who do not have such a prescription.”
When asked whether they were aware of the negative medical consequences of consuming Concerta and Ritalin without being prescribed these substances by a medical professional, the seller explained their position. They said that they were aware of medical consequences, adding that depression is a problem for these students, but if students want to obtain these substances, they eventually would. When asked whether they were aware that selling prescription medication to students was unlawful, they said they were. The seller adds that the risks involved do not outweigh the benefits, although it was a good source of income for them. Sometimes the trade of Concerta and Ritalin is more informal than the situation described above. Speaking from experience to PDBY, the second seller said that students do not necessarily need to find a seller, instead relying simply on friends or students living in residence. The seller added that they had a prescription for Concerta and that people in their residence would ask them directly for these pills. The seller also explained that they had initially begun giving out Concerta pills for free until they had realised how expensive they were. They then started charging for it, but eventually stopped because it had gotten “out of hand”.
At the time of print, PDBY had contacted two buyers who, although originally keen to be interviewed, did not follow-up. In order to determine the discrepancy in prices between lawfully and unlawfully obtaining Concerta and Ritalin pills, PDBY contacted a Dischem dispensary to find out exactly how much a monthly prescription of 30 Concerta and 30 Ritalin pills cost. According to Dischem, 20mg long-acting Ritalin is the cheapest at R530, while 30mg long-acting Ritalin costs R779. Concerta costs R703 for 18mg and R774 for 36mg. Depending on whether Concerta or Ritalin is sold, and what dosage is sold, student sellers should make a profit between R300-R700 when all 30 tablets are sold. However, if the seller uses medical aid to cover the entire cost of their Concerta or Ritalin prescription, they walk away with 100% of profits.
While the full extent of the unlawful trade of prescription medications such as Concerta and Ritalin remains unclear, Spokesperson Mthembu says that if a student is found buying or selling prescription medication while on any University-related property or premises, the university will act accordingly since this contravenes UP’s Disciplinary code. “UP will act against anyone found guilty of flouting its policies and will take the necessary steps, including reporting it to the appropriate authorities, where illegal activities are suspected”, says Mthembu.
Illustration: Giovanna Janos