By Noah Bulthuis
As finals near at UC Irvine, students flock to their “plugs” to get Adderall pills.
“It’s kind of a group activity. As finals approach, my friends and I would get a study room, turn on our computers, open up our textbooks, and take Addy,” explained a fourth-year UCI environmental science major called “Alex,” who chose to use a pseudonym.
Adderall is an amphetamine drug that dates all the way back to the late 1920s, when it was accidentally discovered by chemist Gordon Alles. However, it was not until 1996 that it became the new and improved prescription for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), replacing Ritalin.
Today, Adderall has become a popular study aid among college students, and at competitive colleges like UCI, it seems almost commonplace.
Sam, who is a senior at UCI pursuing a degree in English, explained why she decided to try Adderall last fall.
“I had three major papers due within a two-day span and I was so exhausted by that point in the quarter that I felt I needed something to help,” said Sam, who declined to use her last name.
In a survey done by The Tab last year, students were asked if they have ever taken study drugs, and 20 percent of UC Irvine students claimed that they had.
“I heard about [Adderall] my first year; it’s a common topic in groups like fraternities. I started taking it to pull all-nighters studying” Alex affirmed.
Camila Dadabhoy, a student who transferred to UCI in fall 2017, was surprised by what she saw at UC Irvine’s Ayala Science Library during her first finals week.
“It was around 10 p.m. when I got there and the library was open 24 hours in this last week,” she said. “Two boys in the corner of the study room had their books walled up around the table, and they pulled out a bag of pills. All I know is that when I left at 1 a.m., they were still studying hard without a flinch!”
Finals week is a primary time for students to buy Adderall, and the dealers know this. Alex explained that one pill will cost around $10 during the quarter, but when exams get close, prices rise sometimes to $25 a pill.
Kevin Preciado, a public health policy and sociology major here at UCI, completed his senior honor thesis about the non-medical use of Adderall. He became interested in the subject after meeting someone who was six years into her Ph.D. in chemistry, and who had been using Adderall for studying purposes since her undergraduate years.
To go about his research, Preciado created an anonymous survey through Survey Monkey and posted it on Reddit, Facebook groups, and flyers around campus.
“I got over 270 responses: 30 claimed to be Adderall users and 243 were not.”
In response to what he found surprising about his results, Kevin said, “I think the most important thing that I found is that people are taking way too much Adderall. 10 to 15 mg is the average dose if you have ADHD, and there were five reports of people taking over 50 mg.”
Alex broke down the time frame of each dose, and revealed the adverse effects of taking higher doses.
“10 mg would last me four to five hours, 15 mg would last about six hours and 30 mg would screw me,” said Alex. “It would be so hard to sleep. If I took one of those at 8 p.m., I wouldn’t sleep until 6 a.m.”
Dr. Marc Lerner, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the UCI Medical School, explained how drugs like Adderall can affect students overall.
“There is evidence that, while a placebo effect may leave students thinking that they are performing better, higher doses of stimulants actually decrease academic performance.”
After taking the drug regularly in his first two years at UCI, Alex explained the harsh morning of test day after a long night of studying on Adderall.
“I stopped taking it because my mind felt exhausted going into exams and I actually found myself doing better off of it.”
Sam agreed that the effects were not worth it in the end.
“I didn’t feel comfortable with how it made me feel, so I just turned to more caffeine and better time management.”