Students reflect on prescription drug misuse

Some Norwich University students utilize the benefits of prescription drugs to focus and stay awake, whether or not the drugs have been prescribed to them, based on interviews with students.
According to one Norwich University student, “finals week is when drug use is most prevalent at Norwich.”
Francisco, a freshman student at Norwich, guesses that about a third of Norwich students lacking a drug prescription still consume the drugs, even more so around midterms, and finals.

Even though it is illegal to use a drug that was not prescribed to you, and it is illegal to sell your prescriptions, some students accept that risk.
Based on interviews, some of the drugs commonly taken at Norwich are Adderall and Vyvanse, both considered stimulants. Both drugs are prescribed to people who suffer from attention deficit disorder or have difficulty focusing and concentrating when it comes to everyday tasks.
“I’ve always had good experiences with Adderall and Vyvanse, it helps me focus on my schoolwork and I almost always sleep really well afterwards,” said Benj, a sophomore at Norwich.
Although both Vyvanse and Adderall have their benefits, reported side effects of taking these drugs are nervousness, restlessness, excitability, dizziness, headaches, and increased anxiety. Benj said that besides the occasional headache, he has never experienced any of the other side effects.
Benj guessed that out of the 35 majors Norwich University offers, the three majors with the highest percentage of drug use by students seeking a jolt of energy or to push through all-night homework binges and stay awake during exams would include engineering, architecture, and communications.
His reasoning was, “some of the majors at Norwich have a ton of work, and that definitely would make the students more likely to experiment with Adderall and Vyvanse if it helps them study.”
Asking anyone around campus the question, “Which lifestyle is more stressful?” would likely get the response “Corps of Cadets.” But Elyse, a junior, said the two lifestyles are “probably about the same,” in regards to prescription drug consumption.
She agreed that drug consumption skyrockets during finals week, and said “during finals is the highest for Vyvanse and Adderall because people feel like they need to take it in order to concentrate, even if they don’t have ADD or ADHD.”
Slade, a sophomore, is currently prescribed Vyvanse in order to help him deal with his learning disorder and has been taking the drug for the past five years.
“I had trouble paying attention in high school, and it got to the point where my grades started dropping. I don’t take Vyvanse daily, but only when I need to get a ton of work done really quickly,” Slade said.
“I’ve never sold any of my Vyvanse, but I’ve certainly thought about it,” he added. The street value of Vyvanse is ever-changing due to changes in supply and demand, but consistently hovers at about $15 dollars for a 70 milligram pill.
Adderall is more accessible for most people, and that may contribute to its popularity at Norwich University. “One of my friends has a prescription for Adderall and I can usually get him to give me at least one or two if I really need to get some work done,” said Benj. When contacted, his friend had no interest in being interviewed about the claim.
Neither Elyse nor Francisco have taken prescription drugs, but both felt that the majority of Norwich students do not consume drugs without a prescription.
Reed, a sophomore, says that taking another person’s prescription drugs can be risky. But “if you know what you’re taking, what it’s supposed to do to you, and you’re around people who aren’t going to try and mess with you,” he believes that the advantages of taking Adderall or Vyvanse are worth the risk.
“I have a few friends with prescriptions for Adderall, so it’s never really more than a phone call away,” he said.
For many, the consumption of prescription drugs may be strictly a college phase and does not manifest into an addiction.
For people between the ages of 10 and 19, there are approximately 4.1 million prescriptions for Vyvanse, as opposed to only 1.6 million prescriptions for Adderall, according to the AHFS Drug Database.
Amphetamines like Adderall and Vyvanse can be addictive, which is why they’re classified as Schedule II controlled substances, along with Oxycontin and morphine, by the Drug Enforcement Administration (D.E.A.) Side effects can be as simple as insomnia, or as serious as sudden high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and seizures.
The D.E.A. lists prescription stimulants like Adderall and Vyvanse (amphetamines) and Ritalin and Focalin (methylphenidates) as Class 2 controlled substances — the same as cocaine and morphine — because they rank among the most addictive substances that have a medical use. (By comparison, the long-abused anti-anxiety drug Valium is in the lower Class 4.)
As result, they carry high legal risks because giving a friend an Adderall or Vyvanse pill is the same as selling it and can be prosecuted as a felony.
Adderall prescriptions vary from occasionally taking a 2.5 mg pill in order additionally help the user focus, to taking a 60 mg pill daily.
“A five mg pill will get the job done, and those are pretty common, but a ton of people are trying to find higher dosages,” said Jessica, a transfer student.
Jessica has never taken pills not prescribed to her, but said “Adderall is really popular with the people I hang out with, so I definitely hear about all the work my friends have to do and I can see why they take it.”
For Shade, his need for Vyvanse surfaced before coming to Norwich, but for other Norwich students, their consumption started once they became enrolled.
“My first time trying Adderall was here at Norwich. A few of my friends were doing lines of it before they studied and offered me one,” said Wyatt, a junior. His friends were consuming prescription drugs in a less commonly known fashion, where the user crushes the pill into a fine dust, and inhales, or “snorts” the dust through one of their nostrils.
The effects of Adderall and Vyvanse, when ingested orally, commonly make their users unable to sleep afterwards. “If you snort your Adderall the effects of it wear off faster which is what I like. Once I finish all my work, I can usually fall right asleep.” Wyatt said.
Another drug that has just recently been legalized for medicinal use in Vermont is marijuana, and is seemingly the drug of choice for some Norwich students. Almost all Norwich students who consume weed do so recreationally as opposed to medicinally, which is a civil offense.
Although medicinal marijuana has been approved by the state of Vermont, and possession of marijuana has been decriminalized, Norwich University still prohibits any weighable amount of marijuana, or any piece of paraphernalia on campus at any time. Several students this year have been caught with marijuana, resulting in a long list of problems for each of the students involved.
Benj agreed that not many Corps members smoke marijuana, but said “weed definitely helps me enjoy the time I have to relax, and I need that sometimes.” Marijuana has only recently started becoming legalized across the United States.
According to the University of Washington Alcohol & Drug Abuse website, about one in ten people who smoke marijuana will become dependent on the drug. The website defines dependence as “The person needs to use marijuana just to feel ‘normal’.”
“I mean, there’s definitely people who smoke more weed than others, but I would not say anyone I know is dependent on weed,” Wyatt said. Francisco, who has never taken pills not prescribed to him, said “I used to smoke weed in high school, but I stopped since coming to Norwich. I’m not sure getting kicked out is worth the high.”
Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington D.C., have all legalized the recreational use of marijuana. It is much more common for medicinal marijuana to be legal; 23 states, Vermont included, have all legalized medical marijuana.
“Most of the time I just smoke weed for fun, but I do sometimes use it to help lessen my knee pain,” said Mike.
Medical marijuana is now legalized in nearly half of the United States, and is most commonly used in the medical field to help lessen the side effects of chemotherapy, and to help treat those who suffer from pain, and muscle spasticity.
“The most dangerous thing about weed is getting caught with it,” suggested Mike. “The rules Norwich has for people who get caught with weed don’t make much sense, but since it’s a private institution they can really make up their own rules for punishment.”


  1. Andrew Nemethy says:

    While misuse of prescription drug use is a concern, more harmful party drugs such as “Molly” are a serious health threat to students. This story from Wesleyan shows the risks involved.

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