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Adderall Use among College Student: Risks and Benefits

Ariel Feldberg

September 28, 2010

 

Introduction

Adderall, the combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine, is a drug used to treat people with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000166). These diagnosed patients have a difficulty focusing, remaining quiet and controlling their actions.  Adderall is assumed to only be used by those who suffer from focusing problems. However, in today’s society, people misuse Adderall even though there are many consequences. Exceptionally, college students are the largest market for the legal and illegal use Adderall. It is known that each year more and more people are being diagnosed with ADHD or ADD, thus making it more readily available to those who are not prescribed it. Students that are normally prescribed Adderall tend to give it to their friends or sell the drug for at most ten dollars a pill (Laskowski 2008). Others students obtain the drug by faking symptoms to their doctors. Students, commonly college girls, abuse Adderall in order to curve their appetite and loose a massive amount of weight. Other students rely on this drug to help them concentrate and study for hours straight and boost their GPA. The non-prescription use of Adderall threatens the student’s health and can lead towards addiction. This literary review will express the common abuse of Adderall of college students and the risks and benefits of its non-prescription use.

 

What is Adderall?

            Adderall, approved by the FDA in 1996, is a drug that can be prescribed to someone of any age, adult or child (Medications and Drugs). The combined dextroamphetamine and amphetamine is a medicine classified in central nervous system stimulants (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000166). Thus, the drug alters the quantities of certain natural substances that are in the brain. The drug is taken once or twice a day, however Adderall XR is taken once a day. The doctor chooses the dosage of the pill depending on the symptoms and case of the patient. Factors that affect the dosage includes one’s age, other ADHD medications one has tried, other medical conditions one may have, and other medications one is already taking (http://adhd.emedtv.com/adderall-xr/adderall-xr-dosing.html). Doctors recommend Adderall XR dosage depending on the patient’s age. Accordingly, 10 to 30 mg for 6-12 year olds, 10-20 mg for 13-17 year olds, and 20 mg for adults (http://adhd.emedtv.com/adderall-xr/adderall-xr-dosing.html). The drug has many legitimate uses including treating ADHD and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder (Strayer 2009). People diagnosed with ADHD have a hard time sitting still, concentrating, and controlling their behavior (http://adhd.emedtv.com/adderall-xr/adderall-xr-uses.html). Most of the time, children should show their symptoms before they turn seven in order definitely be diagnosed with ADHD (http://adhd.emedtv.com/adderall-xr/adderall-xr-uses.html). Adderall is a stimulant that is a tablet prescribed to be taken orally.

In our society, Adderall is a very common drug amongst children and teenagers. It is becoming more prevalent each year. For example, children that are 12-17 years old that are diagnosed with ADHD has increased by 4 percent each year from 1997 to 2006 (http://add.about.com/b/2008/08/03/adhd-rates-rising-among-older-children.htm). In 2006, it was found that from the ages of 5-17 years old, 4.5 million children were diagnosed with ADHD (http://add.about.com/b/2008/08/03/adhd-rates-rising-among-older-children.htm). Therefore, Doctors continuously prescribe Adderall while being aware of all of the side effects. Side effects include nervousness, restlessness, headaches, stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body, changes in sex drive or ability and difficultly falling asleep. Although these side effects are harmful, there are other side effects that are much more severe, detrimental and still evident. These side effects consist of swelling, itching, hives, fever, hallucinating, seizures, dizziness or faintness, weakness or numbness of an arm or leg, slow or difficult speech, excessive tiredness, chest pain, shortness of breath and a fast or pounding heartbeat (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000166).

 

 

How common is it for college students to be prescribed Adderall?

            The use of Adderall has become more prevalent from our overly competitive society. Most importantly, it is a schedule II drug which means that without the prescription, it is illegal (Sperry 2010). Critically, if one is caught with the drug without prescription, one gets in trouble with federal and state laws (Sperry 2010). College students have become one of the largest markets of Adderall, legally and illegally.  It is evident that recently there has been an overdiagnosis of ADD and ADHD. There has been mass increases in the amount of diagnoses, thus there has been an immense increase in the quantity of prescribed users (Daley 2004). Most students that come to college with the prescription are usually prescribed when they are younger or during high school. These are the students that are diagnosed with the disease and need extra assistance for obtaining greater concentration. It improves one’s attention span and helps with decreasing impulsiveness and other uncontrollable behavior (Richards 2010). A study done by IMS Health revealed that the most commonly prescribed ADD drug was Adderall with over 16 million prescriptions made in 2009 (Hopper 2010). According to the student health center director at Ole Miss, Barbara Collier, students frequently come to the health center complaining about problems concentrating and feel the need for a prescription (Hopper 2010).

Even with knowing the many severe side effects, the FDA continues to advocate the prescription of the drug. The FDA did their own study of the affect of Adderall on children and results explicated that the drug leads towards a risk of sudden death. However, faking naivety, the FDA pretended that they never tested this study and continues supporting Adderall prescription (Huff 2010). Dr. Dennis explained that, “Adderall is over prescribed to all populations, by general psychiatrists and even addiction psychiatrists, without informed consent or understanding by the psychiatrist of dependency risks” (Cook 2009). A study done in Northeastern proved that most Adderall users started while being in college, and students that started taking Adderall in their childhood or high school are three times more likely to continue using it year after year than those students who started during college (Teter 2006).

 

What are the reasons college students abuse Adderall?

Study Aid

            Many reasons persuade college students to obtain non-prescription Adderall. Two critical reasons are study aid and a curved appetite/weight loss. In past years, college students rely on stimulants, such as caffeine, to keep them concentrated and motivated. However, recently, it has become evident that more and more college students have begun depending on Adderall as a study aid (http://www.adderallabuse.net/academic-doping.html). Many students in college campuses all over the country turn to Adderall in order to help them study for hours straight with intense concentration. These students believe this “miracle drug” to be a GPA booster and keeps becoming increasingly popular (Daley 2004). To most people’s surprise, the typical “abusers” of Adderall are those who are intelligent, hard working and attend competitive colleges (Weingartner 2009). These students are ones that put so much pressure on themselves and consistently feel overwhelmed (http://www.adderallabuse.net/academic-doping.html). A survey study was done around 119 colleges across America in order to determine the misuse of Adderall. The study revealed that 25% of students at very competitive colleges have used Adderall in order to enhance their study habits (http://www.soberliving.com/resources/adderall-2013-a-common-study-aid-on-college-campuses). Students illegally take the pill in order to study for final exams, big midterms, and research papers. Estimates demonstrate that 10-15% of college students take the medication to enhance their academic performance (http://www.squidoo.com/adderall-abuse).

Adderall is known to be a cognitive enhancer, thus meaning that overcommitted people take it to become even more overcommitted (Talbot 2009). This abuse is extremely common. For example, in 2002, a small college found results that more than 35% of students have abused prescription stimulants (Talbot 2009). The 2008 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study showed that of 12-17 year olds, 20% abused Adderall and over 50% stole the medication from a family member (Richards 2010). As a study aid, Adderall is thought to increase GPA, and give a machine-like push of increased focusing for students. Although there are many side affects, students justify it by their GPA and feeling like grades are the most important thing in college. Adderall provides extra energy for the person taking the pill and consequently gives the person a desire to concentrate, and work for hours. The medications are so controlling that they can make students study for six hours straight without any breaks (Kantor 2007). These students believe that these pills are superior to actually studying on their own with their own intelligence (http://www.care2.com/causes/education/blog/drugs-are-the-new-study-buddy/). This non-prescribed study aid is used due to the pressure coming from all ends of the spectrum. Students feel pressured by their professors, friends, and family and feel that they can only keep up by using drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin (Marrer 2004). University of Wisconsin recently did a study and saw severe results. They concluded that almost one in every five students use Adderall, or another drug to enhance them academically (Marrer 2004). Ultimately, students begin to rely on Adderall so much that they feel without the pill they can’t succeed. They feel that they strive off of this extra “brain power” (http://www.examiner.com/healthcare-industry-in-national/adderall-side-effects-are-life-threatening-students-use-adderall-ritalin-to-boost-brain-power). Angela, a junior at Columbia University, said, “I don’t think I could keep a 3.9 average without this stuff” (Jacobs 2005).

Weight Loss

            Another reasons students abuse Adderall is for weight loss. Adderall is known to have side affects including a loss of appetite and weight loss (most common in adolescents) (http://www.diet-blog.com/07/adderall_as_a_weight_loss_drug.php). Adderall has become so associated with weight loss that some endocrinologists, including Ziai, treat obesity with prescribing Adderall (http://www.diet-blog.com/07/adderall_as_a_weight_loss_drug.php). Many students in college resort to Adderall from all the social pressures to be thin. However, in most cases, students do not start using Adderall for this “beneficial” side effect. They realize this effect and want to continue using it to curve their appetite (Bailey 2009). In an extreme way, some users grind the pill and snort it in order to intensify the effects, especially the lack of appetite effect (Bailey 2009). Clinical studies reveal that weight loss from Adderall occurs in 9% of teenagers and 4% of children. Loss of appetite was shown to affect 36% of teenagers (http://adhd.emedtv.com/adderall/adderall-and-weight-loss.html). In our culture today, Adderall can easily be associated with cocaine, smoking, purging and other unhealthy ways to loose weight. It can suppress one’s appetite for close to 9 hours, thus causes the users to loose weight. This side effect more commonly attracts teenage girls who are concerned with the way they look (Howard 2006). ABCNews expose that many people abuse Adderall in order to loose weight due to the fact that many celebrities also use it to loose weight (http://www.ehow.com/facts_5120396_adderall-health-risks.html). This proves how much our culture is affected by the media.

This abuse is ironic because Adderall was originally proposed for weight loss until it’s other benefits were discovered (Sacks 2009). Primarily created in 1996, Adderall was derived from the weight management drug, Obetrol (http://www.cracked.com/funny-3091-adderall/). Consequently from its intended use, some doctors today prescribe Adderall IR for the purpose of loosing weight (http://www.cracked.com/funny-3091-adderall/). Doctor in Illinois was critiqued for prescribing Adderall to over 800 overweight children and teenagers. Although his patients were successful with loosing weight, his moral ethics were questioned. Not one of the 800 patients was diagnosed with ADHD (Dorausch 2007). This controversy doubted this doctor’s moral and medical ethics.

Other Reasons

Some other reasons students abuse Adderall is in sports. It is known to improve one’s athletic performance by giving added energy, and concentration because of containing performance-enhancing amphetamines (Raikkonen 2010). For example, a major league baseball player, Jason Kendall, confessed that he used Adderall with an intention to play better (Raikkonen 2010). Like other drugs, Adderall is also used by students to get a “high”. For this purpose, people take the pills in many ways, including orally, ground up, mixed with water, and injected intravenously (http://www.newdirectionsprogram.com/Ritolin.html).  This puts these students in a different state of mind (http://www.livestrong.com/article/220494-kids-adderall-abuse/). College students use the drug as a “party drug” in order to give them more energy during the night. Throughout the night, one student takes 30-70 milligrams to give him boosts of energy (Gundling 2007).  One student claims that he won’t stop using Adderall to go out at night because “It’s fun” and he is “sort of a happier person after taking it” (Gundling 2007).

 

What are the risks and benefits of non-prescription use of Adderall?

Risks

            Primarily, Adderall is an addictive drug. The transition from abuse to action can be very quick and severe. The Pleasure Center of the brain is stimulated from the drug and discharges potent neurotransmitter chemicals. However, the neurotransmitters are prevented and are unable to be used normally again by brain cells. This creates an urge to continue to take Adderall (http://www.adderallabuse.net/). This addiction leads to students relying on the pill and believing they can’t do well without it (http://www.drugrehabranch.com/staff-articles-and-drug-treatment-news/adderall-abuse-growing-among-college-students). The pill can be taken in many different ways, including injection. Injecting the mixture can ultimately block small blood vessels (http://www.addictionstreatment.org/adderall-addiction-treatment.html). Moreover, Adderall can increase blood pressure, heart rate causing a big risk of a heart attack or a stroke. Other cardiovascular problems consist of hypertension and arrhythmia (http://injury-law.freeadvice.com/drug-toxic_chemicals/adderall-side-effects.htm). College students that abuse Adderall often abuse alcohol and other drug use as well. Excessive drinking is associated with the same college students that take non-prescription Adderall. The NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) Report revealed that college students who non-medically used Adderall were almost 3 times as likely as those who had not abused Adderall to use marijuana in the past year. Furthermore, “8 times more likely to have used cocaine, 8 times more likely to have been nonmedical users of prescription tranquilizers, and 5 times more likely to have been nonmedical users of prescription pain relievers” (http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/2k9/adderall/adderall.pdf). Additionally, 90 percent of college students that abuse the use of Adderall also binge drank, and half of those students were heavy alcohol drinkers (http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/2k9/adderall/adderall.pdf). Legally, the non-medical use of Adderall is unlawful and strictly prohibited. Adderall is a Schedule II drug, thus meaning that if one is caught with the mediation illegally, they are wrong under the Federal Controlled Substance Act and can possibly face jail time (http://www.soberliving.com/resources/adderall-2013-a-common-study-aid-on-college-campuses). Adderall also causes insomnia. The combination of destroamphetamine and amphetamine is said not to be taken late in the day due to the fact that it causes difficulty falling asleep (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a601234.html). Moreover, by taking the pill non-medically, one does not know the correct dose they should be taking for their own medical health. Thus, many people can have a bad reaction. Sandy Bentley, a director of a Student Health Center Pharmacy, explains that a “dose is so specific to the one person and Adderall has a lot of effect on the cardiovascular system”. This explicates that using the wrong dose (someone else’s dose) can cause a heart attack or a stroke (Hopper 2010).

Benefits

            Explaining the benefits of the non-medical use of Adderall is a very subjective topic. In the eyes of many college students, these benefits include an increase in GPA, an ability to study for hours straight, weight loss, and enhanced athletic performance. Study aid is definitely a strong attraction of the drug to college students across the country. Other students enjoy the use of Adderall to be socially energized and “high”. Many girls abuse Adderall in order to fit in with society’s waif thin look. The drug curves ones appetite and causes many users to loose weight. Medically, some doctors use Adderall to treat obese patients (http://www.cracked.com/funny-3091-adderall/). However, the non-medical use of Adderall has no benefits towards one’s health. Abusing Adderall is detrimental to one’s health.

 

Conclusion

            This literary review focused on the legitimate uses of Adderall, the combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine) and the non-medical abuse of the drug (http://adhd.emedtv.com/adderall-xr/adderall-xr.html). Studies prove the prevalence of the abuse of Adderall within college campuses across the country. Adderall is a medication designed to treat those who have focusing problems and are diagnosed with ADHD and Narcolepsy. However, college students began to abuse the drug in order to boost their GPAs and study for hours straight for a big exam. Other students, mainly girls, abuse the drug for the purpose of curving their appetite and loosing weight. Adderall is a prescription drug for a reason. These abusers are not aware of all of the risks of taking this drug for a non-medial intent. The abuse can cause students to become addicted and start having strange behavior. Other sever risks include heart attacks and strokes (http://injury-law.freeadvice.com/drug-toxic_chemicals/adderall-side-effects.htm). In all, Doctors need to start having stricter regulations with prescribing Adderall. Many people fake the symptoms and obtain the prescription very easily (http://www.adderallabuse.net/). Also, those students who have ADHD need to understand the risks of selling their medical drug. They need to understand the legal crime and how the drug can hurt those who are not diagnosed with ADHD or narcolepsy. There are many safer ways of studying for college students across campuses. When they feel stressed out have an urge to take the “easy way out”, they need to turn to friends instead of pills. They need to join study groups and make study guides in advance instead of cramming the day before big exams.

 

References

Bailey, E. (2009, April 16). Stimulant Medication Abuse for Weight Loss. Health Central. Retrieved September 28, 2010, from http://www.healthcentral.com/adhd/c/1443/37929/abusing-adderall-loss

Cook, T. L. (2010, May 12). Adderall: college student miracle drug. Gather. Retrieved September 27, 2010, from http://news.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474978232096

Daley, B. (2004, April 20). Perspective: Miracle Drug? Daily Pennsylvanian.

Dorausch, M. (2007, March 29). Adderall Drug Controversy Continues. Planet Chiropractic. Retrieved September 28, 2010, from http://www.planetc1.com/cgi-bin/n/v.cgi?c=1&id=1175189290

Gundling, J. (2007, February 02). All-night rage: Adderall as a party drug. The Dartmouth.

Hopper, D. (2010, April 29). On-campus use of Adderall somewhat common, unsafe. The Daily Mississippian.

Howard, R. (2006, October). The Size Zero Pill. Daily Mail. Retrieved September 27, 2010, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-409347/The-size-zero-pill.html

Huff, E. A. (2010, August 27). Adderall has extreme side effects, but FDA says keep taking it. Natural News. Retrieved September 28, 2010, from http://www.naturalnews.com/029584_Adderall_side_effects.html

Jacobs, A. (2005, July 31). The Adderall Advantage. The New York Times.

Kantor, S. (2007, April 27). Students take risks in order to study and party harder. The Bucknellian.

Laskowski, A. (2008, May 5). The Other Side of Adderall. BU Today Campus Life. Retrieved September 27, 2010, from http://www.bu.edu/today/node/6731

Marrer, M. (2004, November 13). Adderall Use and Abuse. The Georgetown Independent.

Raikkonen, T. (2010, March 14). Adderal: Helping Treat ADHD & Boost Athletic Performance. OzcarGuide. Retrieved September 28, 2010, from http://www.ozcarguide.com/health/health-a-z/brain-health/2356-adderall

Richards, E. (2010, May 17). Adderall for Attention Deficit Disorders (ADHD). Suite101. Retrieved September 28, 2010, from http://www.suite101.com/content/adderall-for-attention-deficit-disorders-adhd-a238256

Sacks, J. (2009, February 09). Adderall is the Most Commonly Used Study Enhancing Drug Among College Students. Health & Wellness. Retrieved September 27, 2010, from http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1438128/adderall_the_college_drug.html?cat=51

Sperry, A. (2010, August 23). Adderall Prescription Laws. EHow. Retrieved from http://www.ehow.com/list_6863007_adderall-prescription-laws.html

Strayer, E. (2009, September 23). Uses of Adderall. EHow. Retrieved September 28, 2010, from http://www.ehow.com/about_5449373_uses-adderall.html

Talbot, M. (2009, April 27). Brain Gain. The New Yorker, 1-10.

Teter, C. J., McCabe, S. E., LaGrange, K., Cranford, J. A., & Boyd, C. J. (2006). College Kids Choose Adderall Over Ritalin For Illicit Use. Pharmacotherapy.

Weingartner, D. (2009). Adderall use last recourse for busy students. Tennessee Journalist


 

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