Editors note: The Palmetto Report changed and removed some of the names of the students quoted in this story in order to protect their identity.
(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Throughout the course of a semester the pressures of midterms, papers, projects and final exams are in full effect.
To cope with the pressure, a number or Winthrop University students said they are illegally buying prescription drugs, including Adderall and Vyvanse, from their peers in order to handle the stress of the semester.
The drugs, which are often prescribed to people with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), can be habit forming and can produce a stimulant effect similar to cocaine.
Students, who don’t suffer from ADD or ADHD, said they will take these drugs in order to help them focus, study, stay up late or to mock the effect of a harder drug. Students also admitted to buying prescription pain killers and anxiety medicine.
“When you only have so much time to study because you have all these other responsibilities, taking those drugs makes you feel like you’re at your highest capability to cram as much into that little amount of time,” said “Jane,” a Winthrop student who often buys prescription drugs from her peers.
“I work better if I work in a time crunch. I feel like my day is really productive if I do a lot in one day and that is what Adderall and Vyvanse do to me,” said “Mary,” an education major who admitted to using drugs prescribed for others.
Mary said she felt “very focused” and could concentrate more easily when using the drugs.
“I tend to overlook the smaller things in the day, like eating, so that way I can just focus and do my homework,” she said.
A number of students said it is fairly easy to get these pills from other students by paying anywhere from $3 to $8 per pill.
However, Jane said at first it was difficult to find the drugs until she made a connection with someone who sold.
“It was very easy after that to get some, but it’s a networking kind of thing,” she said.
Students also said they were often highly motivated to get their hands on the medication, regardless of the consequences, because they thought they could accomplish much more while under the influence of the drugs.
“If I didn’t have such a crazy schedule outside of school I probably wouldn’t buy them, I wouldn’t feel a need to use,” said Jane. “I felt like I needed them and didn’t give a sh— that they were illegal so I bought them.”
The students who sell their medications said they see it as a quick way to make some money.
“It’s easy money. If I’m not using them I would rather sell them for a little extra cash,” said “Steve,” a Winthrop student who admitted to selling his prescription drugs.
“I don’t really think theres anything wrong with it, so I’m not concerned with any of the ramifications of my actions.”
Winthrop officials expressed their concern about students trading prescription drugs.
“Hearing that students are asking around for these stimulants is very distressing. We know that abuse of prescription drugs is definitely a problem on college campuses, including Winthrop, but we do not know the prevalence for such abuse,” said Jackie Concodora, director of health and counseling at Winthrop.
“When a drug is prescribed to an individual its prescribed for that individual and their specific needs,” said Rosie Hopkins-Campbell, Winthrop’s student wellness coordinator.
“When taken improperly, we don’t know what will happen,” she said. “It can affect that person’s health, performance academically, their ability to drive, (or it) might make them sleepy.”
Addiction to prescription drugs, Hopkins-Campbell said, is something students should be concerned about. “In terms of opioids, addiction can happen after one dose,” she said.
For “Stacy,” a psychology major, the use of prescription medication may have led her to other stronger drugs, which she said keeps her focused and attentive in class.
“Ironically enough, my freshman year I used to go to class on LSD and I actually found that I did really well. I found that it broadened my creative horizons and helped me understand things in a new way,” said Stacy.
“I wanted to try it, I’d never done it before and it seemed like a lot of people were doing it.”
Hopkins-Campbell said students buying and selling prescription drugs should also be concerned about the potential consequences if they’re caught.
“There is a legal implication for that. Someone on scholarship could be put at risk for their scholarship. They’ll probably have to go through the judicial review board. So there is some serious implications that can result,” said Hopkins-Campbell.
For some students, that appears to be a deterrent.
“There is too high risk, too little reward for that sort of thing. You can get kicked out of school for that type of thing and for $20 it’s not worth it,” said “John,” a Winthrop student with a prescription for Adderall.
“I take it before my classes because it helps me pay attention to the actual material and focusing on what is actually going on in class. I also use it when I’m doing work so I don’t get distracted.”
John said he doesn’t sell his medication and he didn’t want to provide his name for fear that other students might approach him wanting to buy.
Lauren Patterson, a senior theater major, said she has also dealt with other students asking to buy her medicine, but she has declined.
“It would be during final season or a big test and they would just say: ‘Hey, please, I really need this. I have to pull an all nighter, I’ve been waiting to do this, so I need to stay up and focus,’” said Patterson.
Concodora said the misuse of drugs is one of the reasons Winthrop students are required to complete online training on the topic on a regular basis.
However, the Palmetto Report has previously reported that students are often not taking similar training, dealing with sexual assault, seriously.
Winthrop does not have a substance abuse specialist on staff, but officials hope to hire one in the future.
The university currently uses Keystone Substance Abuse Services of York County as the primary resource for students dealing with addiction.
The non-profit group, located in Rock Hill, offers professional care to people dealing with health problems related to substance abuse.