Thursday, March 30, 2006


With health insurance and a little planning, getting high is as easy as getting a prescription.

And in the case of drugs that treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder - which stems from low levels of brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine - New Yorkers are working the system.

Ritalin is a form of legalized “speed”.

"Addagurl" is the gay community's slang for the ADHD drug Adderall. Jared, 29 (who, like all subjects in this story, used a pseudonym), spends his weekends "gurling." The fashion designer got a prescription two years ago after looking up symptoms online and telling his doctor that he had them.

Now that’s something you don’t hear every day.

"ADD is such a subjective diagnosis," he says. "If you say that you have it, how's somebody going to prove that you don't? There's really no quantifiable test, so just actually knowing what to say is all you need."

When Jared, who lives in Manhattan, is planning to stay out late dancing, "three Addagurls and I'm ready to go. If you take, like, more than 30 [milligrams], it starts to feel like a combination between cocaine and Ecstasy.

"You can dose up or down according to what effect you want. You know what the comedown is going to be," he says, casually. "It is a nice benefit that it is pretty cheap and your insurance pays for it. It's safe, it's easy and it's predictable."

Not necessarily so.

Emily, 22, got a prescription for Ritalin during her last year of college. She giggles as she recounts exaggerating her symptoms during 15-minute meetings with a "bottom-of-the-barrel" doctor her school provided. (The drugs can only be prescribed by seeing a doctor in person.)

The doctor become suspicious when she admitted that she wasn't taking Ritalin every day, Emily says. But he didn't press her on it.

Instead, he renewed her prescription, eventually increasing the dosage to 20 milligrams from the original 5.

"I wasn't telling him I was taking it to stay up at night, because I know that's not really the best thing to say," Emily says. "I was just saying, 'I only take it when I really need it because I don't want to be dependent on it.' Every doctor wants to hear that."

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