As one Southern Methodist University sophomore maps out her week of three tests, one quiz and one 10-page English paper, she fears nothing, because she’s got Adderall fighting on her side.
“I’ll just pop a few Addies and I’m good to go,” this student proudly bragged while sprinting into the library to face another all-nighter.
At the same time, Kathleen Auffenberg, a sophomore at SMU, rushed into CVS, a focused grin on her face. “I’ll take the Swiffer Wet Jet, Lysol disinfecting wipes and Tide laundry detergent,” she said.
Her recent bout with those little blue pills justified her obsession with cleaning and organizing her new apartment.
Both of these students and thousands more have joined the Adderall revolution that has recently swept across the nation, resulting in “addied up” college students everywhere. These students have discovered a miracle drug that seems to solve all of their study related problems. Many other college students have even turned to Adderall for recreational purposes, adding it to the list of experimental drugs.
Adderall, an amphetamine-dextroamphetamine, acts as a stimulant prescription drug usually recommended for those diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder, said the University of Iowa’s Student Health Service Center. While it is known that ADD and ADHD can cause an individual to display a short attention span, especially in a learning environment, “it is not fully known why an ‘upper’ of this type works and has a calming effect on the brains of ADD and ADHD patients,” according to the center.
Adderall’s side effects are wide ranging. For example, Adderall can lengthen students’ attention span, increase their ability to follow directions, decrease their distractibility to surrounding excitements and decrease negative social interactions such as stubbornness, aggression and impulsivity. But, at the same time, this drug can cause insomnia, irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure, hallucinations, anxiety, restlessness and headaches.
Kelly Stephenson, another SMU sophomore with a prescription who takes two 20 milligram capsules every morning, said Adderall makes her feel “focused and attentive,” where she “wants to get her work done as soon as possible.” Yet, it also makes her “less talkative” and “unable to sleep or take naps during the day.”
Overall, though, Stephenson said, “It helps me study most importantly and when I started to take it, my grades became significantly higher, so I think that it helps me perform to my true capability.”
While most of these serious side effects penetrate into the lives of nearly all the college students on Adderall, one result stands out as a potential for another serious problem.
Many believe that some girls have decided to continue taking Adderall because of its positive effect on losing weight. In extreme cases of Adderall dependence, the reduction in appetite can cause one not to eat for however long the dosage lasts and possibly lose significant amounts of weight. The near starvation that the accumulation of this drug can cause parallels anorexia in certain cases. For example, the Food and Drug Administration lists anorexia first among others as one of the most frequently reported adverse reactions.
While some students refuse to let Adderall take a hold on their weight, many other girls lack the self-control to force themselves to eat.
The Attention Deficit Disorder Help Center proposed that Adderall was first developed and marketed under the name Obetrol, in which it was used primarily for weight loss and diet control. Adderall’s effects last for about six hours per dose, yet this drug can stay in the body and remain active for much longer.
Furthermore, Adderall, a prescription-only drug, has begun to lack the need for those little yellow slips of paper. Instead, college students have turned to stealing it from siblings, buying it off their friends or any other methods deemed acceptable. The new “Adderall black market” is anything but underground.
A study done by the New York University Health Center states that 2 to 4 percent of the general population abuses prescription drugs every year, with the largest number of these drug abusers in the college age group, ages 18-24. At the same time, anywhere from 4 to 36 percent of college students have admitted to using Ritalin or Adderall as a study aid, and one out of every five of those students has obtained these pills without a prescription.
Many students without a prescription to Adderall admit to either getting the pills from family members or buying it off of friends, though most usually get the drug for free.
Furthermore, Dr. Michael Shiekh of the Mental Health Center at SMU agrees that there is a big danger for taking the pills without a prescription.
“I’m very careful about prescribing these medications,” he said, for if the dosage is too high for the individual, then cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure and a rampant heart rate could result.
Because of the success of Adderall, a new form of the drug, titled Adderall Extended Release, hit the markets recently. Adderall XR “is unique in that it contains two types of drug beads designed to give double-pulsed delivery of amphetamines, intensifying the effect and sustaining it over longer periods,” said an article written by Conor Nevins, a student at Northeastern University.
Unusually, an increasing trend to take these new Adderall XR involves crushing or chewing the pills. Yet, dividing up the single dose, rather than swallowing the mixture whole, can have an extremely negative outcome on the effectiveness of the drug.
While Adderall has many different modes of penetration, it similarly has come to bear varying unusual needs for consummation. While it is most often taken as a study aid, the 49 percent increase in sales to $475.5 million in 2003 from 2002 suggests alternative uses. The University of Iowa’s Student Health Service Center states that “more recently, these drugs have become popular as either recreational drugs to help all-night partiers stay awake, or for late-night cram sessions.”
When taken recreationally, Adderall is usually ingested in the form described above, crushed and snorted through the nostrils. Furthermore, to help college students become the “partier extreme,” Adderall can be combined with alcohol. While extensive research has not yet been done on this combination, it is most likely thought to be a potentially harmful or deadly amalgamation.
University of Iowa’s Health Center also discovered that recreational side effects may even take on different side effects than for Adderall’s intended use. These resulting effects may include excessive sweating, suppression in growth, incessant talking, skin rashes, dizziness and severe depression upon withdrawal, just to name a few. Furthermore, overdose becomes very possible when taking another person’s drug, for his or her weight and body type and how it affects his or her dosage may be drastically different from one’s own.
The SMU Mental Health Center claims to have a pre-set policy of triple kit prescription for stimulants. Shiekh described this three-step process in the following manner: First, objective testing with a psychological test over a day or a number of days is required. Then the students are diagnosed on a clinical diagnosis, usually by consulting with their parents. Lastly, the students are required to take a urine drug test to identify abuse of any other substance.
In addition, Shiekh said the doctors on staff “try to do as good a job as we can in making a diagnosis” by only releasing one month of medication at a time and limiting the release of other drugs. All of these steps are taken to ensure that SMU’s Mental Health Center is limiting any potential abuse.
Nearly all of the students interviewed agreed that one of the positive effects was the ability to stay up all night. Yet, no students specified whether this need for the zombie-like ability to stay awake for days at a time was meant for recreational or for study purposes. Both uses are increasingly likely based on the excessive partying that college students have become accustomed to, accompanied with the loads of schoolwork.
For example, another SMU student was heard demanding Adderall at one of the fraternity houses on campus the other night. Yet, this Saturday night seemed like an inopportune time to be gearing up to write a paper. Instead, he said, “I want to be able to late-night. Without the Adderall, I’ll never be able to make it.”
Auffenberg, Stephenson and the other SMU students mentioned represent the thousands of Adderall dependent students at nearly every college campus in the United States. While only 10 years ago Adderall was thought of as nothing more than an ADD and ADHD study aid, it is now an experimental drug for the student population.
Category: Drug News