Cover Story

FDA-Approved Substances Hit the Streets

      Drugs promoted by major manufacturers often wind up on the street, bought and sold like any other illicit substance. The pattern isn’t new: Heroin, notorious for the hundreds of thousands it has enslaved, was for years widely promoted by Eli Lilly and Company for medicinal purposes — a “treatment” for coughs.

      Ritalin, an amphetamine-type drug, received its final approval from the FDA in 1955. It has, for many years, been administered to schoolchildren across the country with the FDA’s blessing, promoted through medical journals and major marketing campaigns.

      Freedom conducted numerous interviews of addicts and others familiar with Ritalin as a street drug. “You catch a lot of guys running around with a whole bunch of sores, like syphilis, all over their bodies,” said one. “It opens up your pores and you have welts all over your body. It looks like pus, gangrene. Ritalin does that.”

      Another said, “You can tell Ritalin users because their hands and feet swell up and they get sores on their arms and legs.”

      Ritalin, like cocaine and methamphetamines, is a central nervous system stimulant. And, like those two drugs, it is classified as a “Schedule II narcotic.”

      Today, along with the other deadly substances it resembles, Ritalin is one of the most widely abused street drugs, taken by tablet or injected.

      Demerol and Dilaudid, FDA-approved but addictive painkillers with a heroin-like effect, also fetch big prices on the street.

      Pushers get up to $100 a pill for Dilaudid, known as “drugstore heroin”; there always seems to be an illicit supply, despite FDA “controls.”


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