I’ma Teach Ya How to Sell Dope

Before college I thought of Adderall as something kids used to spice up their nose candy collection rather than an ADHD medicine. One evening my sophomore year, a friend hit me up saying she needed to get Adderall but didn’t want to walk to get it alone. It was around 2 am and I was dumbfounded on why someone was trying to party that hard during finals week. Turns out she just needed the pills for studying.

Since that night I’ve found out just how much the drug game has adapting to our harsh policies on foreign produced narcotics and conversely, our leniency towards Big Pharma products. It seems as if the days of the stereotypical Colombian drug lord are being replaced by a doctor with a nice office downtown. Tony Montana is now Antonio Montana M.D.

I did a project in college on prescription drug dealing and one person I interviewed, who used the pseudonym Craig, opened my eyes to just how deep the game is. He said he had been on a Ritalin prescription since the third grade and starting making some money off his pills in high school. This is actually fairly common but it was the profit margin that was surprising.

Craig’s doctor made $140 off his last visit while he paid $20 out of pocket for 90 pills. According to him, he could sell each pill for $4 or $5, meaning he could potentially make anywhere from $340 to $430 in profit. It’s not consignment but apparently co-pay isn’t bad. Craig said getting his dosages upped was as easy as telling the doctor he needed more.

The reasons people choose to buy pills are various. Some do it just to party. Others, as Craig told me, use things like Ritalin as “performance enhancing drugs”. During finals weeks, flipping prescriptions is big business.

This unorthodox, yet productive abuse of prescriptions is one of many reasons that protects the industry from more police scrutiny. When people are taking pills to study, that lessons the chance for the kind of abuse that will land them in the hospital.

The big safeguard, however, is the demographics of the industry. Flipping prescriptions is prevalent in affluent suburbs and college campuses, which are places where people have more political capital than the poor neighborhoods that get targeted in the War on Drugs.

There are few kids in poor schools who are on prescriptions but in my town of Lake Oswego, elementary school offices are flooded with kids who need their medication. Even though there are inherent risks of abuse, no one would advocate banning medication because most kids generally benefit from it.

While prescription pills can be just or even more dangerous than illegal narcotics, the affluence of users usually translates into rehab or diversion rather than incarceration. For this reason, it’s probably better that more people aren’t on prescriptions in low-income neighborhoods. Police wouldn’t hesitate to lock up every dark person with a  medicine bottle if given the chance (Consider this: Blacks are 13 times more likely to go to jail for drugs than whites even though drug use is uniform across all racial lines).

There are interesting implications for these dynamics though. I’ve walked through the Lakeview neighborhood, which is a more affluent area of the already affluent town of Lake Oswego, and it seems like every other house is for sale. When I drive anywhere I see more office spaces for lease than occupied. This would imply a lot of wealthier people are losing money.

How long before parents start getting their kids together and giving them acting lessons to get in on some of that prescription money. Judging by how doctors tend to over prescribe, parents could reasonably get enough meds to serve any disorders their kids may have while still making substantial profits. After all, the drug industry is recession proof.

As I sit here unemployed it almost makes me want to kick myself for not acting out a few more times as a child.


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