College is hard. There is a lot of homework and there are projects and late-night study sessions. And it can be oh-so-tempting to just pop a few pills to get some work done. I know it’s tempting, and I know people who have popped pills to either get work done, or snorted them to get high (and also get work done). But, no matter how impossible something looks, do not take Adderall or any other study drug, because you never know how addictive you will find something until it’s too late.
What is Adderall? Adderall is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. They are central nervous system stimulants that affect chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control (drugs.com). It is prescribed for individuals who have ADD (attention deficit disorder) or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
Adderall is made with amphetamines. When most people think of amphetamines, they think of meth heads, Breaking Bad, and trailer-park gas explosions (FYI: whenever a news anchor says a house blew up because of a gas explosion, there’s a good chance it was a meth-lab). But the truth is that Adderall is a legal, regulated form of a highly illegal, addictive drug. Says Dr. Samuel Altstein of Beth Israel Medical Group: “If you’re using Adderall for any reason other than for attention deficit disorder, you’re basically using speed,” (quoted in Huffington Post). Adderall and Ritalin (another drug commonly prescribed for ADD patients) are Schedule II drugs, which means they have a higher potential for abuse and dependence. If used without a medical need, you can become addicted, and addiction leads to life-damaging things such as being involved in crime, prison, and death.
From 1996-2013 the amount of methylphenidate (the ingredient in Concerta and Ritalin, which are common “study drugs”) has increased by 600%. In 1996, Lisdexamphetamine (the ingredient in the ADD/study drug Vyvanse) didn’t even exist; in 2013 21,000 kilograms were approved for production (Huffington Post). That means that in 2013 approximately 193 TONS of legal speed were produced in the US.
Though you might know people with a legitimate prescription for Adderall and other study drugs like Ritalin and Vyvanse, most people either buy Adderall illegally from dealers, or bum some off a friend who has a prescription. Many college students use Adderall and other study drugs to increase their mental focus and productivity in order to cram for an exam or finish homework. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated that 5% of Americans between the ages of 18-25 illegally used prescription drugs, which is higher than the percentage of that demographic that illegally used cocaine and hallucinogens like LSD combined during that same time period (Huffington Post).
People who use study drugs like Adderall on occasion in order to study are actually much more likely to crash once the drug wears off; this can cause exhaustion and depression, because the body’s energy and dopamine supplies have been depleted (Adderall increases the level of dopamine in the brain; a lack of dopamine is thought to cause ADD) (Huffington Post). There are short-term risks of using Adderall even one time. These include: increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, nervousness, a lack of appetite which can lead to malnutrition is there is continuous use of Adderall, and insomnia. Adderall can also cause: hallucinations, impulsive behavior, paranoia, and irritability.
If you do not have a prescription for Adderall or any other drug, it is illegal to take, and a felony to sell. Consequences of doing either of these include fines, jail time, and suspension or expulsion from school.
Despite these risks, many college students – and even high school students striving to get into good colleges and make their parents proud – are popping pills.
So what can be done? Senator Chuck Shumer (D-NY) has some ideas, including:
1. setting a limit on how many pills can be prescribed at one time
2. requiring a medical history of ADD/ADHD in order to obtain the drugs
3. educating students about potential dangers of abuse
California State University – Fresno now requires students who want to use drugs such as Adderall to undergo an ADD or ADHD evaluation, which can take several weeks to complete. Then, the student must sign a contract agreeing to regular meetings with a mental health professional, and agreeing in the contract not to share pills with others.
These are all great ideas, but the question law makers and schools should be asking themselves is “Why did this start and how can we make it stop?” Look at our schools and colleges: the insane amount of homework/projects/tests/quizzes/finals, plus parents’ high expectations, plus the competition to succeed among peers all adds up to an environment that is ripe for the abuse of study drugs.
Love and Honor,