Adderall Abuse in College Students

Society pushes kids hard today to perform and achieve. As a result, kids are expected to be stronger, faster and smarter than other students. In college, students have a heightened sense to succeed at all costs. It should be no surprise that students are turning to study drugs to help enhance their performance.

The National Study on Drug Use and Health found that 3.4 percent of college students used a stimulant in the past month for non-medical purposes compared to only 2.0 percent between the ages of 18 to 22 years old that not college students.1 Also, full-time college students are almost twice as likely to abuse Adderall than other 18-to-22 year-old individuals who are not in college full time.1 The prevalence of stimulants floating around college campuses is an issue most college students today will have to face.

College student taking notes

Adderall’s Intended Use

Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant that is intended to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. When Adderall use is coupled with counseling, this form of treatment is quite effective.

Adderall is available 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 hours. 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.

Adderall Abuse

When a medication is used without a doctor’s consent and proper dosage instructions, the user may experience devastating—and potentially permanent—side effects. Adderall is a Schedule II drug, so it has a high potential for abuse and may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Some individuals may even fake symptoms of ADHD in order to acquire Adderall. Most doctors won’t prescribe Adderall to young adults without evidence that they can 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 can be habit forming and even 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 the brain stops producing the 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 result can lead to depression and other mood-altering side effects. Once this part of your brain is damaged, it may never completely recover. Long-term abusers of these stimulants risk changing their personalities forever.

Adderall users may suffer from withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to go off the drug cold turkey. The loss of the good feelings the drug has provided can lead to severe depression and even suicide. As with any drug, overdose is also an issue which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. In some cases, if the user has an undiagnosed heart defect, sudden death is possible. Some of the other side effects of abusing Adderall include:
  • Addiction
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Restlessness
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Overdose
  • Stroke2

Adderall abuse can also lead to other forms of substance abuse. 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.

 
Oftentimes, the abuse of a prescription drug can lead to users seeking something harder. College students are under a great deal of 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 appear to offer relief in a seemingly harmless little pill.

Adderall is attractive to college students who feel the need for brain enhancement, especially during times of testing or assignments. Desperate students use Adderall as a means to cram for an exam or complete an assignment as the drug improves the ability to focus and stay awake longer.

Students and teens regularly believe that since Adderall is a prescription drug, it must be harmless. While many of these students would never ingest a street drug, they feel Adderall is a safe alternative.

Students are looking for a way to get ahead and stay there. A survey showed that 33 percent of students didn’t think using a drug like Adderall should be considered cheating.3 When the drug is taken to improve test scores, it is no different than an athlete using steroids for the big game. As a result, many college campuses are taking steps to include Adderall 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 take the drug recreationally. The drug is fairly easy to obtain, and because it is a prescription it may appear less risky to use than street equivalents like speed or cocaine. The truth is that 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:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Erratic behavior
  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rigidity4

Talking to teenagers and young adults about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs is vital. College students often have no intention of Adderall use becoming a habit. Adderall should be used only under the supervision of a doctor. If you struggle with Adderall use, please know help is available.

At The Oaks, our highly trained and specialized staff will help you make the lifestyle changes necessary to facilitate a full recovery from Adderall addiction.Treatment plans are specialized for each individual. Our caring professionals help individuals to learn their triggers and develop coping mechanisms so they can move forward. Learning the root cause of Adderall addiction leads to more successful treatment with a much lower chance of a drug relapse. Our admissions coordinators are standing by ready to answer any questions you have. Please contact us today.


12016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, Accessed April 5, 2018.

2Adderall.” WebMD, Accessed April 5, 2018.

3 Grohol, John. “Is Taking Adderall to Boost College Brain Performance Cheating?” PsychCentral, Accessed April 5, 2018.

4Adderall.” RXlist, Accessed April 5, 2018.