Federal drug agents arrested Hollywood psychiatrist Dr. Nathan Kuemmerle on April 14th for his involvement in a “pill mill”, which the doctor used to write daily prescriptions of Oxycotin, Adderall and Xanax. The operation reveals the ethical fallibility of gatekeepers charged with dispersing these powerful, and potentially dangerous, cognitive enhancing drugs.
Kuemmerle was the top prescriber of high-dosage Adderall in the state of California last year. He frequently prescribed drugs without conducting medical examination, often in exchange for money. His operation crumbled when the authorities arrested someone trying to sell Kuemmerle-prescribed Adderall on Craigslist.
Along with the recent arrest of five Utah residents for their role in an online pharmacy illegally selling prescription drugs originating from Mexico, this incident illustrates the growing demand for prescription drugs and the variety of avenues available for those who seek them out.
An article published in The New Yorker described how a former Harvard student, known simply as Alex, used knowledge of his brother’s ADHD symptoms to procure a prescription for Adderall. He even persuaded his doctor to increase the dosage when the semester workload increased.
CNN reported on the difficulties doctors face when issuing prescriptions. They are forced to make instant judgment calls stemming from an urge to help people who may be in legitimate need. Patients who present memorized symptoms and incorrect background information frequently exploit doctors in a rush to provide care. This tactic is often used to obtain numerous prescriptions for drugs they might otherwise have been denied.
Student Health Center pharmacist Gregg Wendland said it is “probably pretty frequent” for University of Oregon students to falsify ADHD symptoms in order to obtain an Adderall prescription. “A lot of people look at is a way to give themselves an edge in their academic career,” said Wendland, “and I’m sure the information is available on the Internet for exactly what the diagnostic criteria are for ADHD.”
The Health Center has a set of checks and balances to curb the sale of prescribed drugs, such as requiring students to sign a controlled substance contract stating that the prescription is for personal use. Wendland suspects, however, that in the non-academic sector it would be easier to obtain Adderall under false pretenses.
Either through falsifying symptoms, buying from a corrupt doctor or ordering from an online pharmacy, students seeking prescriptions have a number of options. As the drug becomes more accessible, the temptation for students to abuse Adderall could grow. Almost more frightening than the increasing availability of Adderall is the potential future where the use of cognitive enhancers becomes mandatory to remain competitive.