“Time to take my superman pill,” *Luke says with a gleam in his eyes. He saunters off towards the bathroom of the library, with a tiny clear plastic packet in his grip. The packet contains only one small white pill, about a quarter of the size of a Disprin tablet.
When he returns, he sits down to begin working, with a guaranteed three to four hours of solid, uninterrupted concentration.
“It doesn’t just make you work- it almost makes you enjoy what you’re working on.”
For many students who have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, Ritalin, like Concerta or Adderall is a daily necessity. They need it just to function normally in an environment which requires concentration, such as university or high school. . For *Luke, who can concentrate quite adequately without it, Ritalin is more of an easy cure for laziness and leaving things for the last minute.
“I always thought that I might have ADD, meanwhile I was just lazy. If I need to put my head down and work, I can do it without using study drugs, but Ritalin helps.”
*Luke does not have ADD or ADHD, despite being given a prescription for both Ritalin and Concerta in grade 11. He chooses not to make use of it and instead finds it much easier to access the ‘study aid’ from his peers, as do many other students who are more than willing to pay about R30 for a few hours of “superhuman” concentration.
“It’s stupid that if you want to take it, in this time and context, you have to get it legally prescribed because all they’re doing is making you pay money to write out a script that they will never, ever say no to. I mean, I’ve never heard of anyone going to a doctor and them denying them Ritalin or Concerta.”
The use of stimulants such as Ritalin and Concerta have the potential to cause both minor and more serious side-effects such as loss of appetite and sex drive, depression, cardiac arrest. Marine Beltran, who is currently doing her medical internship in Johannesburg says that, “If you’re using a drug that requires a prescription and you don’t have one, that drug is obviously going to be dangerous or a prescription wouldn’t be necessary. Students don’t realise this though- especially because they’re at an age where a lot of them are experimenting with illegal drugs and binge drinking. They downplay the dangers of prescription medication because they’re taking them in a context where there are much worse drugs available.”
*Luke however does not seem too worried about these dangers as he explains that he only takes it in times of desperation. “I suppose it should worry me but the amount that I take it, probably not. I don’t think I take it enough to worry about the side-effects, but I suppose I don’t know enough.”
*name concealed to protect privacy
Next week: Kiddie Cocaine