WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ – As college finals are right around the corner, a growing number of students are using the ADHD medication Adderall as the new “caffeine” to give them an academic edge by keeping them awake, energized and focused.
This may be the fast alternative when it comes to cramming for finals, but students don’t seem to be fully aware of the damages these prescription prescribed pills can cause. Since students are choosing to misuse this so-called “smart drug,” many of them who are not prescribed Adderall end up buying it and becoming addicted without even realizing. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, “addiction to stimulants is also a very real consideration for anyone taking them without medical supervision. Addiction most likely occurs because stimulants, when taken in doses and routes other than those prescribed by a doctor, can induce a rapid rise in dopamine in the brain.”
Many university students are pressured with final exams and paper deadlines that many of them are following the trend to use Adderall. Talk to any college student and many will tell you that these drugs are especially common during the most stressful times. Most of them would tell you how they take these pills and spend all night in the library. “Its usually common before finals,” said Sophia Picatoste, a senior at Monmouth University. “Everyone is trying to cram last minute, like the a day before.”
“I feel like all my friends who go to other schools go, ‘Oh yea, Adderall!’ They use it,” said Monmouth University junior Nick Gonzales. “I think it’s pretty common.” People who don’t need it tend to take a low dose of 10 or 20 milligrams, which helps them concentrate. Students are able to take one of these low dose pills and have the energy to stay up all night and focus on their work without interruption.
When speaking with one student who did not want to be identified, Student X.
“My first time was during my freshman year of college where I was studying for final examinations,” said student X. “At first we took one half of each. They said they only lasted three hours, not sure about specifics but when we did, we were very focused, and suddenly I felt this huge productivity boost in myself.”
Student X said he obtains these pills typically from students who have a prescription for Adderall who are instead of taking them, sell the drug at $5.00 a pill. “It’s very easy to find on campus. You can normally go up to someone you heard from a reliable source,” said Student X. “It’s never someone on the corner selling it. It’s normally behind closed doors.”
Many students that take Adderall who are not prescribed it do not fully understand the damages this drug can cause. “Like any drug, too much can be harmful,” said Dr. Celeste Napier, a pharmacologist with Rush University Medical Center.
“These drugs are prescribed properly for ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactive disorder), because these people’s brains are different from normal people’s and compensates for different chemicals,” Dr. Napier explains. ” The general consensus is that stimulant amphetamines of too much dopamine over-activates the brain. That can cause hyperactivity, it can cause shakiness, it can cause cardiovascular problems like your heart to palpitate, it keeps you awake at night.”
Despite the potential health and criminal consequences of misusing the drug, a Drug and Alcohol Survey conducted at Ohio State University in 2009 found that in spring of that year, 16 percent of the 1,211 students surveyed reported some type of stimulant use. The survey is conducted every other year.
College students around the U.S. are not properly educated on what exactly they are putting into their bodies and how addictive Adderall can be, according to The State News that posted an article “Dangers of Adderall, Not Worth The Grade.” Since many students assert that they use Adderall only for studying for large tests and completing important assignments, the risk of dependency is high. “I don’t think I’m addicted,” said Gonzales. “I just can’t imagine not taking it.”
“I have attend Monmouth University for three years now and I take two pills when I have a ton of work to do,” said Monmouth University junior, Lindsey Jordan. “When I was off the Adderall I failed one class. When I began to take Adderall again, I saw a huge improvement.”
Many of these college students that go off Adderall already have it in their mind that they are not going to do well without the drug. This is one of the main reasons their grades suffer and they return to misused, also stated in the article “Dangers of Adderall, Not Worth The Grade.” However, students yanking their bodies back and forth between taking these drugs and not taking them acknowledge that at some point they start noticing that it’s not so good for their brain chemistry or physical comfort.
“I’d have to say the worst thing about it is the come-down. It makes you just angry, and sweaty, and jittery,” said Picatoste “I think because it is an amphetamine, it’s my small way of going through withdrawal.”
While students are abusing Adderall to pass their exams many of them are not even aware that they can go through withdrawal periods from its absence. Is this just a small price to pay for an “A”? Can one sacrifice their mental health for a few hours in the name of passing Chemistry? The best way to reach these students is to educate them on the damages these types of drugs can cause and introduce them to healthy alternatives.
“In my opinion, the best natural stimulant is exercise,” said Dr. Napier. “Go for a run or head to the gym before you have to sit and focus for hours.” She says the help a student might receive in one night is not worth the health problems down the road.
Some tips and better alternatives to studying is having a cup of coffee (caffeine is your friend), not letting your work pile up by waiting until the last minute, and make sure to take a few breaks here and there. Misusing Adderall comes at a price, for those prescribed the drug and for those who look to misuse it, according to The National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“Being off Adderall now for a few years has changed me from and A student to a B student,” said Student X. “Although its not where I could have been, it is where I am suppose to be. Performing at my normal level without any pills makes me feel a lot better about my own ability.”