Editor's note: This is the first column in a two-part series exploring the use and ramifications of Adderall in Richmond's nightlife scene. Click here to read Part 2.
The little orange pill enters your bloodstream and whoosh — you're off! Mouth running like the Micro Machine man. You've already had four cocktails but the urge, this overpowering thirst, this physically induced need to lower your heart rate kicks in. Dry mouth and gnawing on straws. Another drink and you crave a cigarette like a three-pack-a-day smoker and you haven't smoked in weeks.
Suddenly you have ideas. Crazy notions to burn down your sad life and start over. In this moment you can become great. Impossible is no more. You can — you will — get laid by that blonde at the bar. Everything moves in fast motion but without the blur. Six more drinks and you're not even buzzing.
This is pure, synthetically produced adrenaline — a biblical flood of dopamine coursing through your brain. This is Adderall and everyone's on it. Your neighbors, their kids, the bartender, your sister, the entire University of Richmond law school and about 15,000 Virginia Commonwealth University students.
This is legal cocaine — well, if you have a prescription — except many devotees will tell you that Adderall's better. It's smoother.
What's incredible is that it is, in fact, a legal drug. Although it's banned by many major athletic organizations — the National Football League and Ultimate Fighting Championship being the most notable — it's routinely prescribed to 12-year-olds.
That grade-schoolers and college kids use it to focus is unremarkable. It's the combination of Adderall and alcohol, its usage as a party drug, that's significant. There are vast quantities of legal amphetamines and methylphenidate on the streets in the form of Adderall, Ritalin and Concerta, and overachieving 10th-graders aren't the only ones popping the pills like Skittles.
Yes you, the reader, could have 50 Adderall in your pocket in less than 24 hours. Go to the doctors. Say you can't focus. Keep changing the topic of conversation. Look around the room constantly. Boom. Done. Here's your prescription.
Speaking anonymously, a woman we'll call Susan tells me she always enjoyed Adderall, but didn't like hounding her friends for their stashes. So she called her friend's doctor and got an appointment.
"I was literally in the doctor's office for 10 minutes," she says. "I lied and told him that my mind was a jumble and that I was struggling to finish tasks at work. He whipped out his pad and wrote the prescription. Now I have Adderall every time I go out." What's more, she says: "I recommend this doctor to other friends and none of them get turned down."
Normal people who don't suffer from attention-deficit disorder such as Susan can get Adderall at the corner drug store for a price that's about 800 percent cheaper than buying cocaine from some creeper in an alley. She can then turn around and flip some of those pills for around $6 a pop — although like any free market, the price rises or drops with supply and demand. Up to $20 a pill isn't uncommon — still cheaper than most drugs, except maybe crack, which obviously carries a worse stigma, because it's crack.
So why hasn't the government come down harder on something so prevalent in Richmond nightlife? Last year the Virginia State Police Drug Diversion Unit seized 1,292 tablets statewide, according to spokesman Sgt. Thomas Molnar. Of those tablets, 48 were seized in Division I — Richmond.
Only 48 pills seized in Richmond? That's about a single prescription's worth. That's eye-opening, considering that possessing Adderall illegally in Virginia is a class-five felony, Molnar says, which can carry one to 40 years in prison and as much as a million dollars in fines.
Not that it matters because almost no one's getting caught.
"People just don't see this as a major offense, and that is, and will always be, the problem with pharmaceutical drugs," says Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, and former head of a pharmaceutical drug task force.
Should they at least be worried about their health? I'll have more on that side of the little orange pill in the second part of this column next week.