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Getting high: students abuse Adderall

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Jane has been selling her prescribed Adderall pills for the last year and a half, even though it’s a felony to do so. The DePaul student, who uses a fake name in order to avoid being incriminated, started selling the drug for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) out of her dorm to fellow students.

So far Jane has averaged about 15 customers per quarter, who typically desire the boost the prescribed drug gives to those who don’t have ADHD, during midterms and finals week. She said she considers herself something other than a drug dealer, and her dealing is certainly not uncommon for someone prescribed Adderall at a university.

“I don’t really consider selling Adderall to be wrong,” Jane said. “I only sell it to friends or people who really need it for a big night.”

So-called “study drugs” like Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse are prescription stimulants that enhance a person’s memory, concentration, alertness and attention. Such effects are found to be very attractive for college students, and the use of the drugs that offer such effects seem to be increasing. 

More than a third of college students use stimulants without prescriptions, a 2015 study by the Center on Young Adult Health and Development found. According to DrugAbuse.com, about a quarter of students prescribed drugs like Adderall and Ritalin share them with or sell to friends.

Across the broad spectrum of prescribed drugs, use has vastly increased, a 2005 study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia found. From 1993 to 2005, use of opioids like OxyContin and Vicodin increased 343 percent, tranquilizers like Valium increased 450 percent and stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin increased 93 percent.

The abuse of Adderall has become so common that it has replaced marijuana as the most-used drug on campus, said Alan DeSantis, a professor and researcher at the University of Kentucky who conducted a study on the subject.

Of the students who participated in DeSantis’ study, two percent considered drugs like Adderall and Ritalin “slightly more dangerous” than Mountain Dew soda. Furthermore, he found that 80 percent of juniors and seniors involved in Greek life used Adderall.

Students’ use of study drugs they don’t need medically is a growing trend on campuses that has serious implications, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Study drugs such as Adderall are a Schedule II controlled substance, which means there is a high risk for addiction or abuse. That also means, the FDA says, that anyone using the controlled drugs should be closely monitored by a medical professional.

Some of the most common side effects from Adderall and similar drugs — besides the more attractive affects — include anxiety, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping and depression. The long-term effects of taking study drugs are unknown and the benefits are only short term, CNN found.

Adderall’s high usage by college students can be partially attributed to how the drug is distributed.

More than half of young adults say it is easy to obtain prescription drugs even if they were not prescribed to them, according to a 2014 study by DrugFree.org.

Hannah Blok, a junior at DePaul, has been taking prescribed ADHD medicine since second grade, and said she is frustrated by students who abuse it.

“I do not like taking my medicine for my ADHD,” Blok said. “I would not take it if I didn’t have to, so seeing students abuse the medicine I need to survive school really bothers me. It also bothers me that I have to somewhat hide my disease, because I know so many people will ask me for prescription if they know I have ADHD.”

According to a study by the University of Texas in Austin, 50 percent of students who have prescriptions for ADHD medicine have been pressured by other students to give out their medication.

Blok said she considers it cheating for students who illegally use prescriptions to do better in class.

“They are using an enhancer that is not available to everyone,” she said. “I do not have some sort of advantage by taking my medicine. I only take it so I can keep up with classes. There is a big difference that people here need to realize.”

Justin Roberts, a junior and public relations major, said he is prescribed medication to treat ADHD, and is also disturbed by students’ abuse.

“It is frustrating to see students people using the medication I need to get ahead,” he said. “It also upsets me that ADHD has been stigmatized the way it has, because those who abuse it make it seem like my disorder isn’t genuine.”

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Getting high: students abuse Adderall