The underground business of selling psychostimulants, or “study drugs”, in college

By Nate Eng

My experience in trying to find a “study drug” in college was as easy as finding where the party is on a Friday night. Ask around enough and you’ll find someone or someone’s friend that knows.

Vyvanse and Adderall pills

RENO, NV – SEPTEMBER 27, 2014: Vyvanse(left,blue) and Adderall (right,orange) pills spill out onto the counter top in the home of a full time college student. This college student illegally sells her extra pills as a source of side income. CREDIT: Nate Eng

In one day I managed to get five dealers’ phone numbers. My goal was to find a dealer willing to be interviewed and photographed in order to better understand the underground, seemingly nonchalant illegal business of selling psychostimulant pharmaceutical drugs in college.

Who are these “drug dealers,” how much do they profit, and at what costs?

Finding dealers was easy, the hard part was getting one willing to talk about what they do. Out of the five phone numbers only one replied when I asked for an interview. The terms were that I could photograph and interview as long as the dealer remained anonymous. Out of respect for my source’s confidentiality and for the sake of readability, I’ve changed the dealer’s name to Jesse.

The Dealer

Allow me to describe Jesse before thoughts of a stereotypical “drug dealer” flood your mind. Jesse is a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno enrolled in 15 credits. She works about 30 hours a week.

“I didn’t do it just strictly to sell, because I really needed it,” said Jesse.

Student dealing Vyvanse

RENO, NV – SEPTEMBER 27, 2014: A college student diagnosed with ADHD digs out a blue 60 mg Vyvanse. She can sell a single 60 mg Vyvanse for $10 or more depending on the supply and demand. The highest demand for psychostimulants like Vyvanse is during midterm and finals’ week. CREDIT: Nate Eng

Her relationship with psychostimulant drugs began when she was 17 years old and in high school. She was diagnosed with ADHD by a psychiatrist and began taking various forms of psychostimulants like Adderall, Ritalin, Strattera, and Vyvance.

“Vyvanse is my favorite,” joked Jesse as she played with her keys on the kitchen table.

Her prescription started with 30 mg a day and over five years the dosage gradually increased to 60mg. Jesse pays $60 for every refill of her Vyvanse prescription, which is 30 pills, 60mg each. She typically puts aside about 10 pills to sell if she does not legitimately need them. Jesse’s prices fluctuate depending on her supply and demand, which is highest during midterms and finals week.

college student Vyvanse

RENO, NV – SEPTEMBER 27, 2014: This full time college student points out her favorite kind of psychostimulant drug, Vyvanse. She has been taking various kinds of psychostimulants since she was diagnosed in high school at the age of 17. CREDIT: Nate Eng

The “Study Drug” $ Breakdown: Selection and Prices

*Prices range generally depending on dealer, the prices listed are from one anonymous dealer

(lisdexamfetamine dimesylate)
$10 dollars=1, 60mg pill

(amphetamine dextroamphetamine)
$5 dollars =1, 15mg pill

$3 dollars =1, 10mg pill

1 bottle30 pills x $10 per pill = $300 gross profit

At $10 a pill, and assuming she sells 10 pills, Jesse’s gross margin is $100 dollars but her net profit is only $40 dollars. This margin is worth it for her to sell despite the risk.

“I usually would only sell to people that I know very well. It was nice just to have that side bit of cash, kind of like a constant extra little thing that was so easy because I didn’t need it anyway,” explained Jesse.

Mental and Physical Costs

About four weeks ago, Jesse went in for a prescription refill. Her doctor convinced her to get a blood and heart check-up, which she had been reluctant to follow up on. Her results came back with startling news.

“My resting pulse at night was 140,” said Jesse.

A normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100.

Fearing for her life, Jesse started this fall semester clean of Vyvanse and all psychostimulants.

“This is my first semester not on it [Vyvanse]. I hate it. I’ve already missed one thing, “ said Jesse, her tone becoming more desperate. “I’ve never gotten a zero on a assignment, and I already did that just because I didn’t realize I had it and I’ve never done that!”

Adjusting back to school without Vyvanse is just half the battle for Jesse. She described having mental and psychical withdrawal symptoms.

“I wanted to cry for no reason about nothing,” she said.

For weeks she would go to bed restless and wake up feeling sick with waves of cold fevers and headaches. Jesse says it’s just recently that she’s started to feel “back to normal”.

She is currently working with her psychiatrist on alternative medicines but now that she is not taking any medication for her ADHD, she can’t find the time to call and make an appointment.


Categories: HEALTH

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