Students looking for an edge are buying prescription pills from their classmates and administrators have little knowledge about how to stop the situation. If this sounds familiar, it's not what you might think. The newest drug of choice for busy high school and college students is Adderall abuse, a medicine intended for two purposes: fight attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Studies have shown Adderall can be more powerful and last longer than Ritalin, another common ADHD medicine.
The amphetamine cocktail in Adderall increases energy, alertness and enhances concentration for three to five hours. Its reputation has caused Adderall to fall into the hands of people who want it rather than need it. What's more, some medical professionals say Adderall may not be effective in treating ADHD in users older than 16. However, Adderall is especially popular among college students. Sales have increased more than 3,000 percent since 2002 for Shire Pharmaceuticals, Adderalls distributor. A study by the University of Wisconsin found that as many as one in five college students has taken Adderall or Ritalin, a similar stimulant, without a doctor's prescription.
Adderall, which can be swallowed, sniffed, smoked or injected, typically has a calming effect in people with ADHD, but poses major health risks and side effects for those without ADHD. The amphetamines cause increased alertness, excitement and blood pressure. The release of dopamine induces a sense of euphoria that can last several hours, longer than the 15 to 30 minute high of cocaine. The increased brain activity can cause insomnia, anxiety, loss of appetite, agitation, increased body temperature, hallucinations, convulsions and, in extreme cases, even death. The FDA blames Adderall abuse for 25 deaths in children and adults. The FDA also found 54 cases of serious cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, stroke, hypertension, palpitations and arrhythmia associated with this stimulant.
Inside Adderall Abuse
One Pittsburg State senior, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said she has had an Adderall abuse problem for about four years. She said Adderall is like caffeine, but without the huge crash at the end of caffeine pills. The student said many Adderall pills are time-released, and 'if you take it in the morning, it will last all day.'
"When school is in session, I'll take Adderall about every week to help me study and get through the week," she said. "Some weeks, I'll take it two to three times a week just to focus in class and get through tests. It makes you more awake and more focused. When you're taking tests, it helps you remember things better."
The source said most of her friends engage in Adderall abuse, especially during finals and other major test periods. But Adderall is only prescribed for those suffering from ADHD. For those who don't have ADHD, the easiest way to get Adderall is to find someone who does have ADHD.
"Some have prescriptions that they sell to their friends," the source said. "Some have prescriptions they don't use because they only had ADHD as a kid but they keep telling their doctor they need it. But they only get it so they can sell it."
How to Fight Adderall Abuse
Pittsburg State officials said there was not a specific provision against Adderall abuse in the Student Code, but the drug would be covered in the drug policy.
"Our policy on the use of Adderall is that is a prescribed drug that many would use legitimately because of legitimate health conditions," said Steve Erwin, associate vice president for campus life. "As far as those using it illicitly, and there are those that do so, that would be a violation of student policy. Use of any prescribed drug outside a prescription specifically for the drug is illegal."
However, Erwin acknowledged that fighting illegal Adderall abuse is a difficult process and potentially impossible without catching someone red-handed.
"A lot of times, people come into contact with the Student Conduct Code because of behavioral changes caused by drugs. One of the reasons this situation doesn't come into light is there is little evidence to prove Adderall abuse," Erwin said. "First, it depends on whether or not anyone reports that. Second, there's rarely any evidence to substantiate those accusations unless the student has the drugs right there."