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Prescription drug abuse an ‘epidemic’

“I wish I would have never taken Adderall, just because I didn’t know what it was to be on it.” – Lydia Carranco, senior clinical laboratory science major
Aaron Montes
Lydia Carranco, a senior clinical laboratory science major, was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder during the transition from her senior year in high school to her freshman year in college.

Editor’s note: This is part two of a three part series examining student abuse of prescription drugs, Adderall and Ritalin.

Lydia Carranco has had a difficult time focusing in school since she was a child.

Carranco, a senior clinical laboratory science major, was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder during the transition from her senior year in high school to her freshman year in college. After seeing a psychiatrist, Carranco was given a prescription for Adderall, a prescription stimulant, and she began taking it.

In May, Carranco decided to stop taking the drug. She wanted to see if she could go on without the medication while keeping an academic performance of straight A’s, which she said began as soon as she was on Adderall.

“This semester I’m not on (Adderall) and I get really, really bad anxiety. It just feels like it’s in my bones, it’s horrible,” Carranco said. “I get so anxious with class and the stress. I’m having a really hard time dealing with it.”

Carranco is one of many who have legally obtained the prescription medication, but an increased abuse of pharmaceuticals is concerning drug enforcement officials.

“Prescription drug abuse, unfortunately, is on the rise,” said Diana Apodaca, spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration in El Paso. “It’s been categorized by the (Centers for Disease Control) as an epidemic.”

Painkillers like Vicodin (hydrocodone) and oxycodone are opioid based and fall in the same category as heroin. Prescription drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall are stimulants that can lead to cardiac issues and paranoia. They fall in the same category as cocaine and Ecstasy. Depressants are medications such as Valium and Xanax, which depress the central nervous system and reduce stress, anxiety and fear. All can have deadly side effects.

“The most common methods of trying to get prescription drugs that are not prescribed to you are either by altering or forging a prescription, or by doctor shopping—which means you go to several doctors to get the same prescription,” Apodaca said.

She also said that the DEA arrested about 30 people a month-and-a-half ago for getting a prescription by fraud.

“Especially with Adderall, they’re usually diverted from a legitimate prescription,” Apodaca said. “In other words, somebody was written a prescription for Adderall and instead of taking their medication, they sell it.”

Those charged with prescription fraud may face a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years, or a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years.

Carranco received a warning from her internal medicine doctor about a conflict to taking Adderall.

“He told me, ‘you need to be careful because this goes on your medical record and if you ever want to get a job with the FBI, they go back on that,’” Carranco said. “So I was really thinking about it, but I really needed it, especially being in college.”

Adderall will more than likely affect anyone trying to get into medical, law enforcement and teaching professions, Apodaca said.

Prior to taking the medication, Carranco said she couldn’t keep her attention and focus on school, but she did not know that life could be different.

“It helped a lot and made a really big difference,” she said. “I really did like it, the only thing is that when you take Adderall you have to take it first thing in the morning. It keeps you up, it gets you wired.”

Carranco has stopped seeing her psychiatrist, but she is considering getting back on Adderall or Xanax.

She said her body has grown dependent on the medication and is possibly going through some sort of withdrawal.

“I wish I would have never taken Adderall, just because I didn’t know what it was to be on it,” Carranco said. “When I was on it, it was great. It was easier to pay attention and get everything done.”

Kristopher Rivera may be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Kristopher Rivera, Copy Editor
At the beginning of Kristopher Rivera’s sophomore year, he was sitting in a psychology course, pondering his future in regards to a career. He questioned if he really wanted to pursue a career in psychology, which was his major at the time. Feeling uncertain, he began to think of how one decision at that moment would shift everything about his future. He seemed to do well when it came to writing, and he enjoyed reading about bands in magazines such as Alternative Press, Rolling Stone and SPIN. So then he did some research and found that journalism was the way to go. Now, Rivera, senior multimedia journalism major, is scheduled to graduate this fall. It’s also marks his third year with the Prospector. He’s covered stories in sports, entertainment and news. In between some time at the Prospector, Rivera landed two internships. He spent his fall 2012 semester in Washington D.C. as an intern reporter for the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire. Many UTEP students like him have had the privilege to go experience living at the nation’s capital. He covered stories in the area, and saw political figures such as President Barack Obama, Sen. John McCain and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Rivera also had a nice opportunity to see the Who at the National Press Club, where they talked about their organization to help children with cancer. This summer Rivera was in Sacramento, Calif. working as an intern reporter for the Sacramento Bee newspaper. He had the opportunity to cover all kinds of stories such as a homicide, community events, major league baseball games—specifically the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants, and he had some opportunities to work on some music features. He interviewed Ellie Goulding, Cedric Bixler-Zavala (the Mars Volta/At the Drive-In), Randy Ebright of Molotov and a few other artists. Rivera said he’s been blessed to have these opportunities, and it all started at the Prospector. Rivera is also a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity.
Aaron Montes, Staff Photographer
Aaron Montes is a junior multimedia journalism student at the University of Texas at El Paso. He graduated from Burges High School in 2010, where he was the head photographer for three years with his yearbook organization, Hoofbeats, the newspaper, Stampede and a literary magazine, Pegasus. With The Prospector, Aaron has been a photographer, the photo editor and multimedia editor. His major contributions to the publication have come through coverage of the ASARCO and City Hall demolitions and with the bomb threat on campus March 28th. He plans on doing investigative reporting in political and economical issues in El Paso and nationally. He strives to become part of the Associated Press.
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Prescription drug abuse an ‘epidemic’