According to Michael Linden, Ph.D., about 20 percent of students in college take stimulants to aid them in studying, but only about five percent of them are actually diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Some students have two or more finals scheduled in one day, and many students have scarce time and energy; it is no surprise that these students turn to prescription pills, especially Adderall, which increases levels of energy and concentration.
Adderall is a mixture of amphetamines that is prescribed to reduce or improve the symptoms of ADHD in youth. ADHD is a condition in which the diagnosed person exhibits a short attention span and becomes easily distracted, overly emotional, excessively active and very impulsive.
Though the 20 percent of college students that Dr. Linden is referring to don’t all have ADHD, Adderall offers these students an extra push for cram nights. On Adderall, students are more focused and have more energy.
‘It helped me in school in ways that my normal body couldn’t,’ said a third-year UC Irvine student who uses Adderall to study for exams and requested to remain anonymous. ‘I stayed awake for abnormal amounts of hours in order to cram everything possible in.’
This student uses Adderall a couple of times every quarter, throughout the quarter, to study for exams and write papers for the following day.
According to Linden, a clinical psychologist for Mission Psycological Consultants, stimulants such as Adderall are the third most commonly abused substance among college kids, behind alcohol and marijuana.
Adderall comes in two forms: the regular prescriptive pill which is taken twice a day, and Adderall XR, the extended-release form that is taken once a day and lasts from 10 to 12 hours. Adderall XR is the form which students usually take.
‘It helps you be more alert or awake,’ Linden said. ‘It’s like drinking coffee every hour.’
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Adderall in August 2004. In February 2005, 12 young Adderall users in Canada died suddenly.
Canada suspended the drug but it was allowed back on the market that August. On Aug. 21 of this year, Adderall was issued a ‘black box warning.’
Linden believes that Adderall can be lethal if taken without a prescription, especially when freebased or snorted, which students do. Abusers have come into hospitals with cardiac problems, strokes or heart attacks.
Some important side effects of using Adderall include changes in sex drive, depression, dizziness, dry mouth, emotional instability, fatigue, fever, headache, high blood pressure, indigestion, blurred vision, insomnia, loss of appetite, mental disturbances, nausea, nervousness, overstimulation, rapid or pounding heartbeat, restlessness, tremor, twitches, weakened heart, weight loss and a worsening of tics.
According to Linden, euphoria can occur with high doses of Adderall.
‘It gives me a slight euphoric feeling. I appreciate everything around me. It makes me really happy to a certain extent. It makes me want to study, want to learn, but I think it’s because I already have a pre-established mentality of thinking that everything I learn while on Adderall, I will absorb. I feel more accomplished after taking Adderall, ‘ said the anonymous student user.
Those problems are not the only risks in taking Adderall.
Like all amphetamines, Adderall can cause dependency and addiction when taken in large doses over large periods of time.
The student who was interviewed for this article has thought about taking Adderall for recreational use, but said that he was aware of the potential for abuse and would only use it to help him study.
Linden said that long-term effects of Adderall are uncertain, since it has not been studied in patients for more than 14 months.
‘I think the important thing is not to be fooled because … it can be very dangerous,’ said Linden.
Linden compares the drugs that we perceive as dangerous (such as morphine) to Adderall and other stimulants. ‘It’s protected on the same level as morphine,’ Linden said.
In facing academic pressure, many students find the need to push their bodies and minds above their sober capabilities.
Other students find other ways to ‘compensate for the lack of effort that people put into things that should [have been previously] focused on,’ the anonymous student said.
Though the student knows that he may be risking his health, he still intends to use it only a couple times each quarter until he graduates.
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