College is a crazy and exciting time, full of meeting new people, learning new things, living in a new environment, and learning to balance a whole new routine and lifestyle. It can be pretty wild, the whole partying scene, mixed with the stress and anxiety of a full class load, it can easily lead to the need for “extra help.” This drastic increase of responsibilities, mixed with all of the fun and excitement, has been enticing a growing percentage of college students into the ADHD medication Adderall.
The only problem, most of the students using the medication are taking it non-medically, and without a prescription, which is slowly turning the pill into one of the most commonly abused stimulants in the country. It makes sense, that these students with hours worth of work and studying, extracurricular activities and the ever looming “always something to do” mentality, almost feel justified in their illicit use of the medication.
When taken for ADHD, Adderall works to calm the mind of the user, allowing for a sense of calm and focus for people who suffer from attention deficit and hyperactivity. As many students who do not suffer from ADHD have found out, the pill also works wonders towards providing users with a quick cure-all for fatigue, focus, and productivity. However, studies do show that the rate of students who are using Adderall can quickly lead to abuse and even addiction.
Perhaps one of the most surprising pieces of data around the abuse of Adderall in colleges is that the highest percentage of non-medical users tend to be students in private and elite universities. Data also shows that for students who are upperclassmen, the percentage increases. Studies suggest that the longer a student is in school, the more likely they are to use drugs of any sort, especially stimulants.
Adderall – The Data
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In a 2008 study of 1,800 college students, 81% of the students viewed the non-medical use of ADHD meds as non-harmful or dangerous. Most people don’t view Adderall as an illegal or addictive substance, however, it is scheduled on the DEA list of scheduled substances in the same category as Cocaine, Meth, and Morphine.
Of course, the issue that can be brought up is our nation’s eagerness to prescribe medication, as the initial percentage of children and adolescents that are actually prescribed ADHD medications are rising as the years go on. The trend to immediately diagnose an energetic child with medication puts America in the number one spot for medicated youth, with an overwhelming count of over 6.5 million children between the ages of 4-17 being diagnosed with ADHD.
Our nation has become the largest legal amphetamine manufacturers in the world, although we are only a small percentage of it.The US only comprises about 4.5% of the world’s population, but we produce 70% of its legal amphetamines. In 2013 alone, manufacturers in America produced 211 tons of stimulant prescriptions, which translates to roughly two dozen 20 mg Adderall tablets for every man, woman, and child in the country, according to USA Today.
The Addictive Aspect
It is unclear why so many students see Adderall as a harmless study aid, rather than just a slightly different molecule from Meth. However, since most students do see it as harmless, and it doesn’t necessarily present the same “addict” persona that we might see in the media, people aren’t fully grasping the severity of the addictive properties that come along with it. Proportionately, since it is technically legal, and can be prescribed by a doctor, regardless if a student buys it off a friend, it is easier to justify the use and to rationalize with the idea that it is safer than using illicit drugs.
Despite it being legal and prescribed, the side effects that come along with Adderall abuse are eerily similar to those that follow Meth. Abusers can experience
- Being overly talkative
- Loss of appetite
- Unusual excitability
- Social withdrawal
- Financial troubles
- Sleeping for long periods of time
- Secretive behavior
- Hallucinations and of course, overdose
Overdose is obviously one of the worst side effects of Adderall abuse as it can lead to heart attack, stroke and liver failure. In addition, mixing Adderall with other substances, such as alcohol, cocaine, or MDMA can drastically heighten the risk of a fatal overdose.
Countries around the world have banned Adderall as a medication after evidence of overdose and death, and they would especially never prescribe it to children.
In the past 5 years, the percentage of child diagnosis of ADHD have continued to increase, and surprisingly, so too have the adult diagnosis. For the first time, more adults are being prescribed Adderall than children, despite the evidence proving the dangers it can cause.
Besides the physical side effects of the stimulant, Adderall can also cause physical changes in the brain’s neurocircuitry. This can lead to altered behaviors and the development of mental disorders like depression. Some Adderall addicts become suicidal after taking the drug for a prolonged period of time. It all seems crazy to me that we prescribe it to children, and then wonder why they grow up with mental and emotional difficulties.
Colleges around the country are documenting reports of students who are buying Adderall from other students, and even faking symptoms to get their own medication. I myself used to sell a friend’s Adderall in college to other students so I could use the money to buy heroin and cocaine. However, since people know that the original medication was prescribed by a licensed doctor, it is much easier to ignore the fact that they were using a drug illegally and abusively.
The numbers show no sign of decreasing as of yet, but there is hope in spreading the message of the dangers of Adderall abuse on college and university campuses, in hopes that anyone who already is struggling can find the help they may need.
Freedom From Adderall Addiction
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Deborah Tayloe is a freelance writer specializing in health and sciences. Deborah earned a B.S.Ed. in Secondary Education/English, accompanied by a Spanish minor. Her writing expertise allows her to craft engaging, impactful articles to help people be well.
In addition, she holds a fully accredited Certificate of Natural Medicine and is a certified Herbalist. Through her understanding of complementary medicine, Deborah helps medical professionals give people the information they need to embrace natural approaches to wellness.
When she’s not working, Deborah trains for 5K races and advocates for animal rights.