Students discuss use of Adderall

Jill Schleiden

A chemistry final, hours worth of homework, a few pounds to lose, a new way to party; the reasons students try Adderall can be endless.

Adderall is an amphetamine commonly used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The use of Adderall by college students is on the rise, says the National Survey on Drug Use and Health’s website. Its abilities to raise concentration, ward off sleep and even stifle hunger appeals to students who are under a lot of pressure.

When students aren’t using it to study, it becomes a cheap alternative to cocaine, said a senior who wished to remain anonymous. The pills cost $2-$4 for low doses and $5-$10 for larger doses or during finals week, said students.

“When I did it two nights ago,” the student said. “I crushed it up and snorted it for Organic chemistry and Biology tests that were on the same day. I felt like I was doing coke or something. It’s a strange feeling. You feel euphoric.”

Most students interviewed said they use it only to study, and try not to use it too often. The body builds resistance to Adderall quickly, so continued use means larger and larger doses are required for the same effects. The government medication information site, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth, says the drug is also highly addictive. Stopping Adderall after taking it often can cause withdrawal symptoms and painful side effects.

“These drugs are highly addictive,” Dr. Patricia Marken of the pharmacy school said. “They’re the highest category of controlled substances. They’re called c-2s. If you have a personal risk [of addiction], you could become addicted very quickly, much more so than a regular person.”

Students don’t seem too worried about the risk of addiction, however. Emily Bell, a senior, said her friend takes it fairly often.

“He saves bottles at home for when he has lab assignments and tests,” Bell said. “He says [his success] is all thanks to Adderall. He says he actually gets really good grades because he stays focused, it helps his attention, he doesn’t get hungry.”

Aside from the risk of addiction, there are many potential side effects and legal repercussions to using Adderall without a prescription.

Among the potential side effects, PubMed says, are headache, changes in sexual ability, vomiting, and uncontrollable twitchiness. More serious side effects that require medical attention include a pounding heart, chest pain, dizziness, rage and delusions, or believing things that aren’t true.

If someone has a heart condition or is on a medicine that will interact with Adderall, there is a risk of heart attacks, seizures or even death.

“There’s a whole bunch of risks,” Marken said. “Some people take it and they don’t have any issue. If you’re otherwise healthy and you take it, you’re not going to feel very good when it wears off. When it wears off, you crash, or you’re really anxious. Or maybe you drink or take downers to calm yourself down, which creates a problematic cycle. If you have [a heart condition] and you take it you could drop dead.”

If someone has a psychiatric condition like depression, or especially bipolar, Adderall can worsen it, Marken said. Because Adderall is a stimulant, it can cause extreme mania, which won’t necessarily end when the medicine wears off. Mania causes a person to take big risks or become delusional or hallucinate.

Adderall has a long list of potential interactions to worry about, which can cause the more serious side effects. Antacids and other medications for heartburn or ulcers, antidepressants, antihistamines (medications for colds and allergies), vitamin C, sodium bicarbonate (Arm and Hammer Baking Soda, Soda Mint) and sodium phosphate all interact with Adderall, so they should only be used concurrently if a doctor is monitoring your health, if at all. Adderall can’t be taken within two weeks of taking an antidepressant.

Legally, Adderall can garner some hefty fines or even prison time.

“If you get caught with c-2s,” Marken said, “There are criminal implications for that. I think people forget that. It’s very highly controlled.”

According to TheSite.org, a person who has Adderall in their possession can serve up to five years in jail, and there is no limit on the potential fines. A person who has a prescription for Adderall and either gives or sells it to others can pay an unlimited amount of fines and serve up to 14 years in jail.

Marken suggests students find other ways to deal with the pressures of school and life.

“Everyone gets overwhelmed,” Marken said. “It’s part of college. You can’t continuously use Adderall as your coping method to get through difficult times.”

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