Of pills and planes: Flight grounded after students found with drugs

BY KEN CHANG
SENIOR REPORTER

AdderallTom Webster/ Creative Commons
Students were snorting adderall on an airplane en route to the Bahamas.

A destination spring vacation to the Bahamas went awry when a Miami Air International flight was grounded in Orlando on March 26. Chartered by Delaware undergraduates, the decision to divert the plane was made after students were found snorting Adderall in the bathroom.

Because of the university’s unique academic calendar, the trip, which was organized through StudentCity, an independent and all-inclusive student travel agency that caters to the spring break travel needs of college students, was booked entirely and exclusively by Delaware students, according to an anonymous passenger.

“It all started when the loudspeaker came on, yelling at us to stop drinking alcohol, which wasn’t allowed on the plane,” the source said. “And then a few minutes later, they got back on the loudspeaker and said they were diverting to Orlando because we ‘couldn’t act like adults.’”

Upon landing in Orlando, Fla., the flight crew revealed that their impromptu descent was the result of discovering three male students snorting Adderall in the bathroom. They were then told they would have to taxi and lobby at the gate, pending the arrival of representatives from the FBI to deal with the matter.

“The flight was diverted to Orlando due to suspicious substance being found on aircraft, as required by Federal Law,” said Troy Martin, the vice president of sales, marketing and business development for Miami Air International.

The situation arose when a fellow passenger walked into the bathroom to see lines of neatly crushed Adderall on the counter, who then reported the incident to flight officials.

Adderall is a prescription medication often used for the treatment of narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A neurobehavioral-based disorder characterized by difficulty in focusing, reasoning and problem-solving, patients with ADHD are typically given Adderall for the heightened sense of motivation and concentration that accompanies its use.

The abuse of Adderall on college campuses by students without a medically legitimized diagnosis is common, and even rampant in certain areas. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 20 percent of college students admit to using Adderall without a prescription—some for academic benefits and others recreationally.

Upon the arrival of several FBI agents, within a half hour window, the three male passengers who were allegedly involved were removed from the plane and detained for questioning, according to the passenger.

Eventually, all of the passengers were forced to disembark from the plane with their carry-ons for a plane-wide search that involved several trained FBI dogs.

In the middle of Orlando’s Sanford International Airport, all of the university travelers were searched for drugs and other illegal substances. When nothing was found, the passengers were once again instructed to board the plane.

The only traveler found with questionable substances was a male student who had a certified prescription.

After the weary travelers were seated, the loudspeaker reported, “Now, we’re going to try this again,” as they prepared for takeoff.

As the plane took off the runway from Orlando, the passengers were thankful that the 4-hour delay was the last of their troubles before their arrival in paradise.

The university did not respond to an email request for comment in time for publication.

This particular incident underlines a larger and growing issue involving the nonmedical abuse of stimulants in college students.

As a schedule II controlled substance and the most commonly prescribed amphetamine on the market, the addictive qualities of Adderall have long flared intrigue in the medical community.

According to Addiction Center, an organization that aims to spread and distribute information about health-related topics, Adderall functions by increasing an individual’s dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine, which is known colloquially as the body’s “feel good” chemical, mediates feelings of reward, and drugs like Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse produce it in unnaturally high levels.

The use of these kinds of prescription stimulants have become overwhelmingly popular for overworked and overscheduled college students, as well as routine recreational users alike. A recent survey conducted by the University of Kentucky estimates that 34 percent of college-aged students use these types of stimulants non-medically.

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