If the Navy picks you to operate a nuclear reactor located in a submarine hundreds of feet below the ocean’s surface, you’re presumed to be a responsible sort.
But from time to time, a young sailor stationed at the West Milton training site of the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory gets in trouble. Most often, it’s for the kind of indiscretion that gives us oldsters a twinge of nostalgia. The kind of thing that reminds us of and makes us glad we survived our own wild youths.
But one trainee brought a much more serious kind of headline on himself last Monday: “Sailor accused of CVS holdup.”
Wearing the kind of black ski mask costume that made him look like a good student of bad movies, a 20-year-old naval trainee named Richard K. Sliski is accused of displaying a semi-automatic handgun and robbing the Ballston Spa CVS pharmacy. The robbery happened the previous Friday night, and by Monday police had their suspect.
Sliski is charged with first-degree robbery for taking what police described as “a large quantity” of Ritalin.
Yes, the same prescription drug given to children for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
This was the first time I ever considered that Ritalin could be abused. Foolish me, I guess I haven’t been paying attention.
If I was in the know, I’d call it Vitamin R, R-ball, the Smart Drug or Poor Man’s Cocaine.
“This psycho-stimulant is being used as ‘legal cocaine’ on college campuses, being used in larger amounts than prescribed for the ADHD patient or used by their non-ADHD friends simply as a stimulant,” according to the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services website.
Others have waxed on about the overuse of drugs like Adderall and Ritalin to treat childhood ADHD — a phenomenon that makes drug companies a ton of money — but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
It turns out that Ritalin — which had $554 million in sales in 2011, according to its manufacturer, Novartis — can be crushed and snorted, mixed and injected, smoked, and otherwise treated as practically the equivalent of cocaine.
It’s a central nervous system stimulant, according to drug experts. Ritalin kicks in fast, but its effects last only a few hours.
College students use it to pull all-nighters or “study better,” but it’s addictive. And then there’s the natural desire to counteract the crash that follows.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is already on the case. In June he issued a report on how Ritalin and other amphetamine-like drugs are being widely abused on college campuses, and he called for more supervision of their use.
The Ballston Spa robbery is part of a trend that extends beyond Ritalin, said Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III.
“We are seeing a trend in the number of pharmacy robberies. They are becoming the new bank robberies, and the reason is that people are trying to secure prescription medications,” Murphy said.
Hydrocodone, Vicodin and Ritalin are among the drugs behind a pharmacy counter that someone with real problems or poor impulse control will commit a robbery to get.
“It’s feeding an addiction, but they may also be stealing it to sell on the street,” Murphy said.
The Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse services says Ritalin sells illicitly for anywhere from $1 to $5 per pill.