Society pushes and pushes kids today to perform and achieve. They are expected to be better, stronger, faster and smarter. College is a pressure cooker where students have a heightened sense of the need to be successful or risk their entire future. It is no surprise that students are turning to study drugs to help enhance performance and focus especially during testing.
The National Study on Drug Use and Health found that 15 percent of college students used a psychotherapeutic drug for non-medical purposes. Seven percent of that 15 used Adderall to improve grades, increase their attention span, or to party. SAMHSA reports that fulltime college students are twice as likely to abuse Adderall than other 18-to-22 year-old individuals who are not in college full time. The prevalence of drugs like Adderall floating around college campuses is an issue most college students today will likely have to face.
Adderall’s Intended Use
The FDA defines Adderall as a federally controlled substance that is a central nervous system stimulant. It is a prescription-based medication meant to be used once daily in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It is meant to increase attention and decrease hyperactivity and impulsivity caused by ADHD. Adderall is prescribed to people who complain of a lack of focus, inability to sleep, trouble controlling impulses, and hyperactivity. In children, ADHD can present with aggression, defiance and trouble in school as well as socially.
Adderall is extremely effective in treating ADHD when coupled with counseling and working with a doctor to find the correct dosage.
Adderall is made in both an instant-release (IR) form and an extended-release (XR) form. The IR version takes about three hours to take full effect while the XR takes closer to seven.
Adderall and other ADHD medications are stimulants that work with the chemical neurotransmitters in the brain, norepinephrine and dopamine, which are believed to control memory formation and attentiveness. The journal Biological Psychiatry published a report indicating that these medications target the prefrontal cortex of the brain – the part of the brain responsible for personality formation, decision-making and attention. ADHD affects over two million children in the United States, and Adderall has been proven to work with this specific behavioral disorder. Adderall is also used to treat narcolepsy, which is a sleep disorder that causes extreme sleepiness and episodes of sudden sleeping.
Using a prescription medication without a doctor’s consent and proper dosage instructions can have permanent and devastating side effects. SAMHSA states that Adderall is a legally approved drug that has the highest potential for abuse and dependence. Adderall is considered a Scheduled II controlled substance, meaning that it is federally controlled and carries a high penalty for selling or using unlawfully due to its high addictive and overdose potential. Adderall is relatively inexpensive on the street at about $7 to $10 dollars a pill, making it attractive to recreational users.
Some abusers are even faking symptoms of ADHD in order to gain prescriptions of the drug legally. Most doctors won’t prescribe Adderall to young adults without a lot of evidence that they are able to use the medication responsibly. Even those with a legitimate prescription can abuse the drug by using more than the intended dosage.
Adderall and other ADHD stimulant medications are habit forming and can be addictive. Adderall is an amphetamine and has similar effects on the brain as its recreational counterpart methamphetamine. Drugs that target the naturally occurring neurotransmitter dopamine can lead to the onset of addiction due to prolonging the pleasant feelings produced by the stimulant. By hindering the natural production and movement of dopamine in the brain, overuse of Adderall can lead to a dependence on the chemical as well as artificial feelings of euphoria.
Risks Associated with Abuse
Long-term abuse may lead to permanent brain damage as your brain will no longer produce the natural neurotransmitters necessary to control aggression and emotions. If your brain is accustomed to receiving artificial stimulants to create happy, euphoric feelings, it may no longer produce the natural counterparts. The loss of these neurotransmitters can lead to depression and other mood-altering side effects. Once this part of your brain is damaged, it may never be recovered. Long-term abusers of these stimulants risk changing their personalities forever.
Habitual users of Adderall may suffer from withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to go off the drug cold turkey as well. The loss of the good feelings the drug has been providing can lead to severe depression and even suicide. As with any drug, overdose is also an issue which can cause heart attacks and strokes, and, if the user has an undiagnosed heart defect, sudden death can occur. Some of the other side effects of abusing Adderall include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Dry mouth
- Weight loss
- Numbness in limbs
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme tiredness
- Suicidal behavior
- High blood pressure
- Sudden death due to undiagnosed heart defects
Abusing Adderall can also lead to abusing other substances. A NSDUH survey showed that a shocking 89.5 percent of college students using Adderall for non-medical purposes were also binge drinking while 29.8 percent had tried cocaine in the last year. Adderall users were also three times as likely to have used marijuana. Oftentimes, the abuse of a prescription drug can lead to users seeking something harder.
Popularity on College Campuses
College students are under so much pressure, and these young adults have yet to develop a firm sense of self-management, making them easy targets for prescription drug abuse. This may be the first time these young adults are away from home and the first time they have to manage their own schedules. Time slips away and finals creep up. Peers may offer an attractive option in the form of a seemingly harmless little pill.
Adderall is attractive to college students who feel the need for brain enhancement, especially during midterms and finals week and other rigorous times of testing or assignments. Tension levels are so high that nationally 30 to 40 percent of college undergraduates have admitted to using a stimulant drug during these periods of high stress, as reported by the Health Care Communication News.
Adderall and stimulant abuse is also more common in students with a grade point average of 3.0 or lower. Desperate students use Adderall as a means to cram for an exam or complete an assignment as it does hone the ability to focus and concentrate. It also helps users to stay awake longer and extend their study hours.
Students and teens also regularly believe that since Adderall is a prescription drug, it must be harmless. While many of these students would never ingest a street drug, 4o percent of them feel drugs like Adderall are safe, 29 percent think that addiction is impossible, and another 39 percent don’t see an issue with using it without a prescription.
Its relatively low street cost doesn’t hurt either. On the street, Adderall goes by many names such as:
- Black beauties
- Smart drug
- Study helper or study drug
- Jelly bellies
- Double trouble
- Pep pills
- Blue pill
Students are looking for an edge, a way to get ahead and stay there, and 33 percent of students surveyed at an Ivy League college didn’t think using a drug like Adderall should be considered cheating, as published by Psych Today. One in five students admitted to using a prescription stimulant to boost or enhance their brains for an academic purpose or cognitive advantage. Adderall helps with focus and attention and when taken to improve test scores, it is no different than an athlete using steroids for the big game. Many college campuses are taking steps to include this and other stimulant prescription drugs in their drug policies.
Falsely Appears Less Risky
While the vast majority of Adderall use on college campuses is for academic purposes, some users are also using it recreationally or to party. It is fairly easy to obtain and its prescription status tends to make it appear less risky than street equivalents like speed or cocaine. Snorting Adderall can create the same type of high, but it also carries the same scary side effects.
How and When to Get Help
Knowing when and how to seek help for any addiction can be difficult. Recognizing the signs and symptoms is tricky. Some of the signs of abuse include:
- Erratic behavior
- Loss of appetite
Talking to teenagers and young adults about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs is vital. College students are largely under the impression that taking a pill “just this once” is no big deal, and they have no intention of making it a habit. Adderall is a drug that is meant to be used under the strict guidance of a doctor. Any use of the drug for any purpose outside of regular prescription use can be very dangerous and cause long-lasting effects.
At The Oaks, our highly trained and specialized staff is ready to help make the lifestyle changes necessary to facilitate a full recovery from Adderall addiction.
Treatment plans are specialized for each college student and their needs. Professionals help individuals to learn their triggers and develop coping mechanisms to confront and overcome them. Learning the root cause of Adderall addiction leads to more successful treatment with a much lower chance at a relapse. Our admissions coordinators are standing by to answer any questions. Please contact us today.