Legalities of trading Concerta and Ritalin
Most of us know of someone who has bought Ritalin or Concerta during a stressful period at university. Some of you may even have done this yourselves. The use of these drugs is rife at South African universities, but most students do not know much about the legalities surrounding the drugs they are buying.
Ritalin and Concerta are drugs which contain the active ingredient methylphenidate (MPH) and are usually prescribed to a patient diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to help them focus and control their symptoms. Dr William Oosthuizen of the UP Centre for Law and Medicine, provided PDBY with a study entitled “The use of methylphenidate as a cognitive enhancer by health sciences students at a South African University”. The researchers in the study explain that “students often perceive these drugs as safe to obtain” despite their scheduling, because of the “increased public awareness” that these drugs can help with concentration. According to the study, of the 2659 students surveyed, “6.9% […] were taking MPH on a daily basis, of which 3.1% had a confirmed ADHD diagnosis”. The study also explains that of those surveyed, “means of procurement outside of a pharmacy setting accounted for approximately 40.7%”, while 59.3% of the students studied obtained the MPH through valid prescriptions.
“Two most important crimes created by the statute are a) dealing in drugs and b) use or possession of drugs”
What many students may not know is that MPH is listed under Part II of the South African Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act, provided to PDBY by Dr Oosthuizen. This section of the Act is entitled “Dangerous Dependence-Producing Substances”, and includes other recognisable drugs such as morphine and opium. According to Dr Oosthuizen, the “two most important crimes created by the statute are a) dealing in drugs and b) use or possession of drugs”. Because MPH is classed under this Act, there are specific guidelines as to what types of punishments will be allocated to offenders.
Dr Oosthuizen explains that “punishment for crimes relating to the substances in this schedule are more severe than for drugs in the other categories”. Depending on the specific case, a person caught for “use and possession” can be given a fine and/or up to 15 years of imprisonment, at the discretion of the courts. Being caught for dealing is much worse, though, with a punishment of a fine and/or up to 25 years of imprisonment at the courts’ discretion. Although these drugs might be thought of as mere “concentration pills” by students, it is clear that they are seen as potentially dangerous by the relevant authorities and therefore there are stringent rules around their distribution.