When entering college, students approach it from many different perspectives. Some see it as a place to go and party, some see it as the thirteenth grade, and some see it as the foundation for the rest of their lives. Regardless of their initial vision, many underestimated the work load that comes with college. There are fifteen page lab reports, endless pages of homework, exams, and the infamous all-night study sessions. Students can turn to several different places for help with their studying and homework assignments. For many, a study group is the best way to learn and work; others work better alone. No matter what study method is preferred, all students eventually become plagued by fatigue, and it becomes very difficult to remain focused and awake. When the stress and work become overwhelming, some students have to seek assistance from outside sources. Tutors are a great option for students, but unfortunately, on many college campuses, students are beginning to turn to the prescription drug Adderall to assist in late night study sessions and pre-exam cramming. .
This drug is making its way onto college campuses through students that suffer from the psychiatric disorders ADD and ADHD, which stands for attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Students who suffer from ADHD or ADD have trouble focusing on a single task for any length of time, and their ability to quickly process information is hampered. To help cope with these symptoms doctors sometimes prescribe Ritalin, but more often they prescribe Adderall. This drug makes it possible for these students to focus for long periods of time. These students are often diagnosed with the disorder at a young age and are prescribed small amounts at first, but as they grow and become used to the dosage of Adderall, they begin to require larger amounts of the pill each month. However, many students who are prescribed these large amounts of Adderall only use them when they have to study or do homework, because the constant altered mental state is undesired. These students often have a large surplus of pills at the end of every month and end up doing one of several things with them. Extra medication is supposed to be thrown away or properly disposed of in a safe way prescribed by law. However, the pills are given to friends who have a large work load coming up, or more commonly they are sold to students for small dollar amounts right out in the open on campus. Even I have been offered Adderall by several different friends when we have been studying, or they know that I have an exam coming up. On one occasion, someone approached me in the library and asked if I wanted to buy some Adderall for five dollars. This doesn’t seem to be a concern to authorities on college campuses, even though it is a federal crime to sell Adderall, give it away, as well as take it without a prescription.
So what does Adderall do for someone that takes it who doesn’t suffer from ADHD? When Adderall is taken by someone who does not suffer from ADHD, it has the same effect as it does on someone who does, but since they do not have a disability, it has a much stronger effect. This drug puts the average student in a state of focus that is far above what is normal. It allows them to study for hours on end without having to worry about the normal distractions that are regularly encountered. Students on Adderall lose their appétit, so they don’t feel the need to stop and eat, or have thoughts of snacking while they are trying to study. Their need for sleep is also suppressed. Instead of the normal worrying about the lack of sleep they will get, the thought of sleep never crosses their mind, and they can continue with their studies. Most college students see no problem with the drug that is used across the nation every day. They have so much that has to be accomplished each day and Adderall allows them to stay focused for long periods of time through the day, and even through the night. But if this drug seems to makes such a large improvement for students, why is it considered such a big problem?
Adderall is such a powerful drug that it allows the user to remained focused and alert without sleep, so the infamous all-nighters become much easier. But during finals week, some students will use Adderall for several nights in a row, and this can cause several health problems in and of itself. Research performed by Sleepdex found that “A person who loses one night’s sleep will generally be irritable and clumsy during the next day and will either become tired easily or speed up because of adrenalin. After missing two night’s sleep, a person will have problems concentrating and will begin to make mistakes on normal tasks. Three missed nights and a person will start to hallucinate and lose grasp of reality”(sleep). This shows how dangerous it can be for someone to use Adderall to stay awake for days on end to study for exams, especially if the person is going to be operating a motor vehicle during that time. Adderall also causes the user to have no desire to eat; a student could go for extended periods of time without eating. This can cause severe weight loss which can also lead to other health problems in the future, such as anorexia and malnourishment. Furthermore, students who are using the drug to study for an exam often use more than the recommended dosage, thinking they can study harder than normal for a longer period of time. In a study done by the FDA they found that “Manifestations of acute over dosage with amphetamines (a main ingredient in Adderall) include restlessness, tremor, hyperreflexia, rapid respiration, confusion, assultiveness, hallucinations, panic states”(Adderall). This is especially unnerving, because the college students who use this as a studying crutch often double or even triple the suggested dosage. But there are more health concerns than just what is on the label.
Just like many Americans, I was introduced to caffeine at a very young age. It didn’t take long before caffeine became a part of my everyday life in the form of soft drinks. Coke was my drink of choice, but my parents knew it was bad for me and kept me at a limit of one per day. But before long, I was drinking nearly six per day. Even though I loved the taste of pop, it was not the only reason that I drank it. I was drinking it because it seemed like I needed it to wake up in the morning and make it through the day, and when I didn’t drink Coke, it seemed like I wasn’t firing on all cylinders. This is extremely similar to students using Adderall. They begin by just using it once for an exam, and they eventually get to the point of using it every day or even multiple times per day to do homework or some other remedial task. When a student stops taking the drug they feel like they have lost their ability to focus and must take the drug in order to accomplish anything. When I interviewed a friend who used to take Adderall, but wishes to remain anonymous, they said “I would let my homework and studying build up, then use large amounts of Adderall throughout one day to get everything done. When I started trying to do the homework on my own, I couldn’t do it, so I returned to Adderall to help me get through my assignments”(Anonymous). This demonstrates that students start relying on Adderall after using it for any length of time. I was able to break my addiction to caffeine, but unfortunately for many college students, breaking the addiction to Adderall, just like any other habit-forming drug, can be a difficult path. For those that do break their addiction, they have a better life ahead of them, because they don’t have to rely on an outside source to be able to perform at their best; they can do it on their own.
So if Adderall has the possibility of being detrimental to someone’s health as well as being habit forming, why is it a drug being prescribed to children? There is actually a list of symptoms that the FDA produced so that doctors know if a child is suffering from ADHD and is in need of medication. “At least six of the following symptoms must have persisted for at least six months: lack of attention to details/careless mistakes; lack of sustained attention; poor listener; failure to follow through on tasks; poor organization; avoids tasks requiring sustained mental effort; loses things; easily distracted; forgetful”(FDA). These are all symptoms that must have been present before seven years of age, but from my experience, this list sounds like perfectly normal behavior for an average seven year old. The symptoms of ADHD often become less apparent as the subject grows and matures, but they are still given a regular prescription of the drug until they request otherwise. However, it’s not just children who are prescribed the drug. Fox6 had an intern go onto a college campus to see how easily Adderall could be acquired. One student advised her to get her own prescription, saying “It’s pretty easy. Kids just go the doctor and say I have focusing problems and this, this, and this, and they’ll give it to you”(Polcyn). This means that students don’t even have to try and score some of the drug from their friends, but just tell their doctor they are having trouble concentrating and get a legitimate prescription for Adderall.
Even though this drug is sought after by many college students to help with their studies, it is not always wanted by those who it is prescribed to. When Adderall is prescribed to younger children and teenagers, they sometimes don’t like the way it makes them feel under its effect. They say that the drug makes them quieter and more reserved than normal, as well as making it more difficult to carry on a conversation, because they seem to focus too much on what they are going to say. However, this is not true for all children that are prescribed Adderall. Some said that Adderall completely opened up their mind, and that they began to understand and learn more easily. So even when Adderall is attained in the way it should be, it is not always wanted by those who receive it. Yet Adderall is being prescribed more and more everyday to kids diagnosed with ADHD. There are still thousands of students without ADHD who do want it, but they rarely consider the negatives, whether they are physical, mental, or even moral.
When the story broke that the legendary Barry Bonds had used steroids, there was uproar from fans and players alike. They wondered if the records he held in the world of baseball were possible without the help of steroids. But what exactly is it about steroids that make them so unholy in the sports world? Anabolic steroids allow the user’s muscles to recover more quickly than before, and also the muscles do not break down as quickly as they would normally. This means that someone on steroids will be able to play harder for longer periods of time and will recover more quickly. But it’s still the athletes’ muscles that allow them to perform; the steroids just give the muscles an added bonus. So someone on steroids would have an unfair physical advantage over someone who refused to use them. This sounds strikingly similar to the use of Adderall for a college student. It’s still the student using their own brain to take an exam or complete an assignment; the drug just gives then an extra boost to do so. So if a professional athlete takes that much flack for using athletic enhancing drugs, why is it so acceptable for a college student to take mentally enhancing drugs? In an article written by Joshua Foer, he stated that ” According to one recent study, as many as one in five college students have taken Adderall or its chemical cousin Ritalin as study buddies”(Foer). This means that in any given class, there could be one person in every five that is currently taking Adderall, and students without that mental advantage have to compete with them. If a curve is dependent on how well an entire class performs on a test, and a certain group of students take Adderall illegally and score very well, the students that aren’t under the influence of the drug are at a disadvantage.
The use of Adderall is like cheating for people who do not suffer from ADD or ADHD, but what about people who do? Kristin Jenkins found an interview conducted with a student who was afflicted by ADHD and when asked if they felt like unhindered students using Adderall was unfair she said, “For people with ADD, it just makes them normal, and for people without ADD, it makes them above average. If both I and someone without ADD were both on Adderall, I could never outdo them”(Jenkins). So as unfair as it seems to people who don’t have a disability it’s even more unfair for people who do. The very thing that is supposed to level the playing field is not only causing a disparity between healthy and disabled, but also between those who choose to use a drug illegally and those who decide to rely their own abilities and dedication.
Adderall is not just a small problem that can be swept under the rug and ignored. This tiny pill is quickly popping up on college campuses across the nations. It is a large advancement in the medical world for people who are suffering from ADHD and ADD, but it is being turned into a mental stimulant that is hurting the people who refuse to partake and instead rely on their own motivation and dedication. The penalties for using Adderall in college are minor, but it should be regarded as cheating, just as much as a professional athlete using steroids. Not only is Adderall a form of cheating, but it is also very dangerous for students to use in large doses for any length of time. Most students who take this illegally don’t even realize the dangers that come along with it. This use of this drug should be taken more seriously by universities across the country, as well as the doctors who prescribe it. Doctors should be monitoring how much of the drug patients are using each month and reducing the potential for Adderall to be given to friends or sold illegally. Universities could include some information about it in letters they send to students and their parents, and discuss the details of the physical and mental consequences from the illegal use of this drug during the students’ orientation.