“Dark web” allows for purchase of drugs without prescription

The online availability of un-prescribed drugs is making it easier for students to make such purchases without being traced. Image Credit: Niamh McKeown

Un-prescribed “study drugs” such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta are becoming more accessible to students through online mediums that allow users to purchase drugs without a prescription and without being traced.

According to a report by TheJournal.ie, spikes in usage of un-prescribed stimulants are not uncommon on university campuses during exams and purchasing such stimulants is only becoming easier through the internet. In fact, around the 2016 summer exam season, The Health Products Regulatory Authority confirmed the seizure of more than 1,300 stimulant tablets and narcolepsy medication at customs being imported by online suppliers. After the seizure, the HPRA warned of the dangers of using online-ordered drugs and that there are no guarantees the substances ordered contain the right ingredients.

One of the most popular methods of acquiring un-prescribed drugs is through the medium Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that users can buy without supplying personal details by downloading the software onto their computers. “Bitcoins” can then be purchased through PayPal and used to buy substances without entering names or credit card details.

Most websites that accept Bitcoin in exchange for substances are located on the “dark web”—an encrypted network accessible through special servers (often Tor) that does not link IP addresses with online activity so transactions between seller and provider are not traced.

Such websites include the Silk Road 3.0, Black Market Reloaded, and Agora Marketplace. In the 2015 Student Drug Survey, eight percent of students admitted to purchasing illegal drugs from the internet, and ten percent admitted to having a friend do so on their behalf.

Many un-prescribed users of study drugs are unaware of the potential negative side effects such drugs pose. While when used under a prescription, these stimulants are successful in the treatment of ADD and ADHD, they can also cause appetite suppression and unhealthy weight loss, headaches, weakness, dizziness, blurred vision and anxiety.

A previous NCI student who took Adderall during exam times and larger assignments said he experienced paranoia and sleep disturbances after taking the drug.

Other than harmful side-effects, the use of stimulants without a prescription leads to potential unfair advantages for those using such drugs without a diagnosis that requires them.

A current DCU School of Communications student who previously used Ritalin and other stimulants to study for exams disagrees that the use of study drugs creates an unfair advantage: “An unfair advantage would be getting the questions ahead of the exam, but anybody can get access to study drugs if they wanted to.”

While all seven of Ireland’s universities have a policy on drugs and alcohol, UCD is the only one to specifically address the use of study drugs.

Kyle Ewald

Image Credit: Niamh McKeown