Articles

Ritalin – latest high for students

A woman who tried Ritalin (unprescribed) described the effect it

had on her. She asked not to be named:

 

“It's the new ‘it’ drug. My son had taken Ritalin for a few years.

There were a few tablets left and it was school holidays. My friend,

a psychologist, admitted she had popped Ritalin when she was

cramming for her exams. lf it was prescribed how could it be

dangerous?

 

I had a big project coming up and lately I had been so distracted

I did not know where to focus. I would sit at work eyeing my

computer not knowing where to start. I decided that taking a

Ritalin would not kill me and might save my job. I took one tablet

and it did not cause a huge reaction but I did notice my productivity

levels increased dramatically.

 

I had swept through half my tasks by mid-morning and I was

easily able to focus on the tasks at hand. But I was excessively

thirsty and had to drink a glass or two of water. By the end of

the day I felt as if my brain had literally been squeezed.

I had been working at full capacity all day and now my brain

was tired and I noticed I was very cranky and irritated with the

kids at home. That evening I had a huge headache and went to

bed with a few pain tablets. I don't like the feeling at the

end of the day, and probably won't take it again”.

 

A man describes how Ritalin can work properly in adults. He

asked not to be named:

 

“I only realised after taking Ritalin that I had spent much of my

life not even knowing the meaning of the word 'focus". Unable to

read a book from cover to cover – God knows how I got through

matric! - I became a master at taking shortcuts of all different

kinds. What was odd, and frustrating, was that I knew I had the

intellect but never the capacity to achieve things.

 

On Ritalin, which I took for the first time in my forties, I became

amazed at my capacity to get through heavy workloads as well

as speak, write and debate more clearly, without internal and

invisible distractions constantly clouding my thinking.

It only lasts a while and it's important to manage carefully

because during the 'coming down' time of about half-an-hour,

one is as unfocused as one was focused during the ‘trip’.

Anything can blurt out your mouth.

 

I have had slight headaches that I attribute to Ritalin. I have

also found that if I take it too much over a long period, I can

still feel high when I am not on a ‘trip’!”

 

 

Described by holidaying students as the ‘drug of South Africa’,

Pietermaritzburg is earning a name for its nightclub narcotics culture.

Minutes into a conversation with a nightclub regular, ‘shnaafing’ or

‘tripping’ are bound to arise. "Ritalin is one of the big ones”, reveals

a local student. "Some people just take it and then drink to get

really messed up, but there are others who schnaaf it".

 

From suburban house parties to the bathroom stalls of dingy clubs,

line upon Iine of ground Ritalin is being insufflated - snorted, or

‘schnaafed’ - by the city's youth. Also sold as ‘Concerta’, the schedule

six prescription medication is not stolen or acquired from forged

prescriptions. Rather, students with legitimate prescriptions are selling

their medication, which dealers quickly distribute among recreational

users. With pills ranging in strength from 10 mg (sold for R10 to R20)

to 80 mg (sold for R40 to R50), dealers can make a tidy sum, according

to sources who asked not to be named.

 

Acute among those just out of school, the prevalence of recreational

drug use is not news to clubbers. "Pietermaritzburg is like the biggest

drug hub around at the moment," says another student. Scrolling

through his cell phone, he can list several possible suppliers for

vitamin R’, one of the names under which Ritalin is sold.

 

Ritalin's active ingredient, methylphenidate, is a psycho stimulant used

to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). By increasing

central nervous system activity, when professionally prescribed

and dosed, Ritalin helps those with ADHD to concentrate and stay alert.

 

Bizarrely, in light of its wide distribution amongst children,

Methylphenidate has a similar effect on the brain as Cocaine.

Taken in pill form, Ritalin is released slowly and is safe, but when

snorted, the speed of release and intensity of effect is like that of

cocaine, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Ritalin Abuse

Handbook. According to Durban psychiatrist Dr Antoinette Slavova,

what dealers sell as a by-product of the high are the myriad

consequences of Ritalin abuse, including ‘elevated heart rate, torn

nasal passages violent outbursts and psychosis’ in the short-term,

and 'impotence, heart attack, seizure and death’ if abuse continues.

 

Pietermaritzburg police, it appears, are aware of the local drug culture.

Spokesperson Joey Jeevan says that local officers are 'aware of the

situation (of drug abuse in clubs)". "No arrests have been made yet

(in connection with drug-dealing), but we are following-up on

information". Local club management was unwilling to comment.

 

A long-time campus health practitioner at Stellenbosch University, Dr

Craig Thompson, says that students who snort Ritalin "have

(probably) already attempted other recreational drugs, and are most

likely already addicted to something or other".

 

This assumption of prior abuse is at odds with the account of a

young female student interviewed. Due to its accessibility, and the

fact that Ritalin seems ‘not as hardcore’ as what she terms ‘real

drugs’ (illegal narcotics), Ritalin is for her a perfect ‘gateway drug’.

The alarming logic that availability at pharmacies and prevalence

of use equate with safety is not unique.

 

Thompson concludes that substance abuse is "a scourge of modern

times". He notes that although services should be geared at

assisting abusers, practically "this is not always easy” as the onus of

treating substance abuse is more on the sufferer than on those

offering help. Of all the users interviewed, only one mentioned

that he found his Ritalin habit problematic, citing mood swings and

memory loss as "pretty sh*t". But he said he would seek counseling

only if his use got "out of hand".

 

With the SA National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence,

SANCA and several private rehab services offering counseling and

support for students wanting help, the prevalence is not due to the

lack of support for users looking to quit.

 

Riverview Manor Rehabilitation Centre clinical psychologist Catherine

van Rensburg reports incidents of Ritalin abuse among school-age

patients. "We have perceived a trend in use among scholars who use

before exams and then it snowballs from there” she says.

 

WHAT CAN PARENTS DO

 

A specialist addiction counselor with Drug Rehabilitation South

Africa, Justin Villiers, says the first step involves spotting the signs.

drug abuse in general, and Ritalin abuse in particular, can be

identified by the following signs:

 

-         Dramatic mood swings;

  • Sleep disruption;
  • Unprovoked panic and anxiety;
  • Aggressive outbursts;
  • Problems with concentration.

 lf parents observe any of the above signs, Villiers advises they

seek professional help immediately:

 

"Confront your child

Take control of the situation

and seek an addiction assessment immediately.”

 

SANCA, (SA National Council on Alcoholism and

Drug Dependence) drug rehabs and Narcotics Anonymous

all offer an addictions assessment. This is the first port of call

for any parent who thinks their child is abusing drugs.

 

SANCA National helpline:                       0861 472 622

 

Narcotics Anonymous National helpline: 083 900 6962

 

We do recover addictions assessment

 

KwaZulu-Natal:                                      082 747 3422