More Students Abusing “Study Drug” Adderall

There are a lot of demands on the youth of today. Society calls for them to be skinny, keep up with the Jones’ by getting into a good college, and get good grades. For some, the pressure is too much and they decide they need some chemical help. Adderall is abused by many college kids because it is a psycho-stimulant that can help them shed extra pounds, aid in keeping focus and attention for longer periods of time, and help them stay awake to cram for final exams. Adderall is normally prescribed for those suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The problem is, many of these students don’t really need the drug and are taking it illegally. Most don’t understand that there are serious side effects for misuse. In fact, they may have received the drug from a friend or trusted source, making it even easier to abuse the drug recreationally. According to, reports of students using Adderall across U.S. college campuses for better concentration and bursts of energy are prevalent. A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire in 2004 showed that 14 percent of the student body used some type of drug normally reserved to treat ADHD, such as Adderall. A study of 119 college campuses nationwide revealed that about a quarter of students used ADHD medication within the last year; rates were especially high among those students attending highly competitive schools or those universities that are notorious for high rates of binge drinking. Side effects of using Adderall include sleeplessness, aggression, anxiety, hallucinations, and depression. Adderall can also raise a person’s blood pressure, which increases the risk of sudden death, stroke, and heart attack. The impact of the drug on those who have ADHD is quite different than for those who don’t have ADHD. Adderall sends a message to the reward pathways of the brain telling it to release more adrenaline and dopamine. For those who don’t have ADHD, this causes their normally-functioning nervous system to kick into overdrive. The brain is flooded with higher levels of “feel good” chemicals; misuse can lead to dependency and addiction. Adderall can also have detrimental side effects when mixed with other medications, especially alcohol. Since many college students drink, this is definitely unsettling. Dr. Emily Kensington explains that Adderall “covers up” the effects of alcohol, which means students might not recognize how intoxicated they really are, which raises the risk of alcohol poisoning. A study released by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health recently reported that up to 90 percent of full-time students using Adderall recreationally participated in binge drinking episodes in the last year. A New York Times study shows that students taking the drug do so to be more competitive in school. Unfortunately, since there is no blood test or true way of detecting ADHD, anyone can go to their doctor claiming to have the disorder. Also, some students with a legitimate diagnosis of ADHD will sell some of their medication to fellow students. Adderall does not make one smarter, maybe just study harder by increasing wakefulness and concentration. Parents and educators need to be aware of the pressures that may be pushing their young adults to abuse these addictive stimulants and develop ways to educate students about the risks. Campuses also should be on alert for signs of stimulant abuse among students coming into their health clinics, and medical professionals need to ensure that medications are not being prescribed without distinct evidence of ADHD. The trend of stimulant abuse is largely fueled by campus culture and rumors about its “effectiveness,” so it is up to educators and students to change that culture and the messages students get about using these powerful prescription drugs.

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