Ira: Welcome back to This American Life, I’m Ira Glass. Act three: Thug Life. Sometimes, it’s hard to know when you’ve crossed the line. This is especially true when you’re growing up, and it can lead people to do some things they wouldn’t otherwise consider. Richard Carn has our next story.
Richard: Introduce yourself real quick, if you would.
Connor: Hello, I’m Connor, I’m currently a sophomore, and I… where should I start?
Richard: I guess just start from the beginning.
Connor: Okay, so this was in high school. Some AP class my sophomore year. It’s midterm week, so we’re feeling a lot of pressure.
Conner: Well, not really understandably. In retrospect, it’s obvious we were putting all the pressure on ourselves. Like, it’s just a high school midterm, you know?
Richard: I guess.
Connor: But at the time, we were stressing the hell out, right? And then we remember that one of the kids in our group of like, 5 friends has a pretty severe case of ADHD, which means a strong Adderall prescription.
Richard: I know where this is going.
Connor: So, he decides to be generous and let us use some to help focus when studying.
Richard: Is he just giving you some or is he, like, selling it?
Connor: Oh, he’s selling it.
Richard: Nice. In my head, I’m picturing you all wearing hoodies, leaning against a cool car in the parking lot, blaring whatever rap music you can find on the radio.
Conner: Basically, except it’s our parent’s Ford Explorer, Reagan-Bush-‘84 bumper sticker stuck on the back. Like, we’re not hoodrats. Plus, we weren’t wearing hoodies – that wasn’t allowed.
Richard: …you couldn’t even wear hoodies to school?
Connor: Well, this was a Catholic school. All guys too. Hoodies were probably “unholy” or something.
Richard: So, you’re trying to buy drugs – not even that, successfully buying drugs – while still at Catholic school?
Connor: Yup. In our button-downs and khakis, looking spiffy.
Richard: That’s quite the image, I suppose. Continue on.
Connor: So my twin brother and I get back home, we hide from our parents and pop our Adderall. We were nervous as hell before we took it – like, we’re imagining some situation where we’d get randomly drug tested before the test.
Richard: You might have been, you don’t know.
Connor: Like we were in the fucking Tour De France or something? No way. So anyway, our heart rate is high, and the Adderall doesn’t help. But we do feel this razor-sharp focus for about 6 hours – which is way longer than we’d ever need for a high school class anyway.
Richard: What are you even doing for 6 hours? Just rereading the notes over and over?
Richard: No, like, moments you regret nowadays? No moments you look back on and think, “Wow, I enjoyed that at the time, but now I realize the error of my ways”? No darkest hour?
Connor: No? It’s just Addy, not bath salts.
Richard: …okay then, I guess. Did it help you study? Were you even parsing what you were reading?
Connor: I’ll be honest, it was sort of a blur. But two days later, we take the test and we actually feel pretty good about it. Well, except for one of my friends. He had the bright idea of taking another Adderall before the test itself.
Richard: And completely ruined himself?
Connor: Well, he focused really hard on the first page and not much else, so I guess he didn’t do too hot on the midterm.
Richard: What about you guys?
Connor: We did really well, actually. After that, word of our friend’s supply started to spread pretty quickly. People wanted in on this. And we were like, “we can probably make some money”.
Richard: Ooh, so you started dealing to other kids at this point?
Connor: I mean, yeah, but we’re the most uncool drug dealers you’ve ever seen, dealing the most uncool drug there is. And we have no idea how to do it. We’ve been in private school our whole lives. We’re basing everything on what we saw on The Wire one time, y’know? And on top of that, we’re dealing with prep school guys; guys who would pay $25 for a G and thought LSD was an acronym for something to do with the New Deal.
Richard: …what’s a G?
Connor: Doesn’t matter. Point is, we’re making a bunch of money. And then we realize that Adderall is a prescription drug, so the guy we’re getting it from has a limited supply. At that point, we’re all worried that if we stopped selling, some guys would get pissed and rat us out or something.
Richard: So you had to shut them up somehow.
Connor: Again, dude, we’re high schoolers. Chill. Our friend just tries to go cold turkey for a little bit, and after that doesn’t work at all, we just kind of… stop. We thought about asking for prescriptions to continue. Three of my friends’ dads are doctors –
Richard: Okay! That’s good!
Connor: – but two of them are urologists and the third’s an economist, so they couldn’t really give Adderall prescriptions.
Richard: So it was just done. Like it didn’t even happen in the first place.
Connor: More or less. Why?
Richard: Connor, I tried so hard to make you sound cool.
Connor: I mean, I’m just telling my story. I wasn’t really a cool dude.
Richard: Sure, but there’s nothing you want to spice up for the show? I’ve got to turn this into an interesting story, you know
Connor: Nope. I’m good.
Ira: …thank you to Richard Carn for that truly, honestly captivating story. Up next, the story of a town plagued by real drug problems, unlike Conner’s weak-ass attempts to do better in Catholic school. Nerd.
–Ryan Wires, Senior Staff Member; and Connor Tragresser, Contributor