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April 24th, 2013 ANDREA DAMEWOOD | News Stories
 

Take With Homework

A DEA investigation of a local teacher highlights abuse of the attention-deficit drug adderall.

news3_3925 WHAT A PILL: Adderall, a prescription amphetamine used to treat attention-deficit problems, can create a euphoric high that many teens think helps them study. It’s third on the list of drugs most abused by U.S. 12th-graders, behind marijuana and synthetic marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. - IMAGE: Hipsxxhearts / CC
Before dawn on Jan. 29, federal drug enforcement agents swept into a wooded West Linn neighborhood and raided the gray, two-story house of a substitute teacher named John J. Loomis.

Agents carried out jars of white powder, a laptop, USB drives, documents and an unknown number of pills.

The feds believe Loomis was peddling pills to his Portland-area students. But Loomis wasn’t believed to be pushing a party drug.

The pills investigators were looking for were Adderall, a prescription amphetamine commonly given to people with attention-deficit problems.

But Adderall is also the pill of choice for studyaholics—and its use is growing among teens as a performance enhancer, says Selby Smith, assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Seattle division.

“If you don’t have ADHD, you get the high out of it—euphoric, alertness, excitability,” Smith tells WW. “Kids can stay up all night and cram for a test, because basically they’re high.”

Loomis, 51, allegedly conned 21 different doctors in the Portland area into writing him Adderall prescriptions, according to a DEA affidavit and search warrant obtained by WW.

Over 15 months, the agency says, Loomis acquired 7,027 Adderall pills—an amount the DEA says is far more than any  person could consume.

The tally “amazed” one doctor interviewed by the DEA, the affidavit says.

Adderall abuse is expanding into the national psyche: Dr. Oz ran a special on it in February, and Fox News picked up the story in March.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports 7.6 percent of high-school seniors say they abused the drug in 2012, compared to 5.4 percent in 2009. About 9 percent of college students reported abusing Adderall last year.

According to the affidavit filed by the DEA, students are willing to pay $8 to $10 a pill on the street.

Loomis has not been arrested or charged with any crime. Special agent Jodie Underwood, a DEA spokeswoman, says she can’t comment on the case except to say “our investigations can be lengthy.”

Loomis didn’t return WW’s calls for comment or respond to notes left at his West Linn home. He bought the 2,600-square-foot house in 2004 for $304,000, property records show. When WW visited, no one answered the door of the blue-trimmed home with two decks and a hot tub. A Groupon box addressed to Loomis sat out front.

Loomis moved to West Linn from Contra Costa County, Calif., where he owned a business called Trade Winds Overseas Exports that records show is now dissolved.

Neither Loomis nor his wife, Jereza Valdez Mendoza-Loomis, has a criminal record. In May 2003, he passed a background check and was granted an Oregon teaching license, according to the state Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.

The 16-page DEA affidavit outlines Loomis’ alleged system for getting his hands on Adderall.

Loomis approached doctors—half of them naturopaths—to request prescriptions for the drug, filling them at multiple pharmacies to avoid suspicion, according to the affidavit, written by DEA Special Agent Robert J. Allen.

The numerous prescriptions drew the attention of doctors, who began refusing Loomis’ requests. When he was turned down, multiple doctors told the DEA, Loomis grew angry and aggressive.

“Loomis had sent threatening emails, phone calls and letters to practitioners that failed to write Loomis prescriptions,” Allen wrote.

A confidential source tipped the DEA to Loomis’ alleged doctor shopping. Loomis was also flagged by the Oregon Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.  When another doctor learned Loomis was a teacher, the affidavit says, he “became concerned that Loomis could be selling to students.”

The affidavit does not say how the DEA thinks Loomis may have been dealing to students.

Loomis worked as a substitute teacher through a pool managed by the Multnomah Education Service District, which provides subs to every school district in the county, except Portland Public Schools. (PPS says Loomis has not worked there since 2006.)

MESD spokesman Mark Skolnick says Loomis has been a substitute teacher at several Portland-area schools. The DEA affidavit says between September and November 2012, Loomis taught 15 times at 10 elementary, middle and high schools in the Gresham-Barlow, David Douglas and Reynolds districts, including David Douglas and Reynolds high schools. Skolnick says the service district hadn’t heard of the drug investigation until WW called.

Loomis is still an active teacher on the sub list. However, at least two districts have stopped using his services. Spokeswomen for the Gresham and Reynolds school districts say Loomis was cut months ago for issues unrelated to the DEA investigation.

The affidavit says Loomis and his wife may also be facing financial problems.

It wouldn’t be the first time. In 1998, court records show, Loomis filed for bankruptcy in Northern California, citing nearly $450,000 in debts owed to the Internal Revenue Service, Macy’s, Sears, other credit cards and Wells Fargo Bank, among others.

Smith, from the DEA’s Seattle office, says cases like Loomis’ are uncommon. The sheer amount of drugs is what brings the case to the feds’ attention.

“You have to be selling a lot to get on our radar,” Smith says. 

 
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