A look at Adderall, one of the more commonly abused stimulants on college campuses

Students may use Adderall recreationally in order to help them study, but it may be hurting them instead.


A long study cramming session for tomorrow’s test, are you ready? Patrick Delaney | Photo Editor

Tucker Berardi, Features Editor

Some students’ names were changed to protect their identities.

In her sophomore year of college at Florida Atlantic, Mary. C told her doctor that she sometimes had problems focusing on schoolwork. Five hours later, she filled her prescription of Adderall at her local CVS.

“I’ve never been diagnosed with [attention deficit disorder] or ADHD,” the 24-year-old graduate said. “I went to [a walk-in clinic] for a cold and said I needed Adderall, [the doctor] prescribed it right there.”

The drug is used to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD.

According to Drugs.com, Adderall contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, which are stimulants that affect chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control. Amphetamine is also the main component in crystal meth.

Adderall is a highly addictive Schedule II drug which puts it in the same category as cocaine, according to Quartz magazine.

Mary’s story is not uncommon — many college students have prescriptions for Adderall, also known as the “study drug,” that they take in order to improve focus and increase productivity to better their grades.

”These drugs are an unhealthy alternative to teaching students to manage themselves. Instead of reinforcing study habits and time management, we prescribe medicine to do it for them,” Carman Gill, FAU associate professor for the department of counselor education, said. “It’s easier to pop pills than go to counseling.”

Senior biology major Briana M. was diagnosed with ADHD and has an Adderall prescription, but says that she has seen it abused by peers and understands why taking the drug can be so addictive.

“I think, honest to God, most people would take Adderall like a drug,” Briana said.

Both Mary and Briana said that they have been approached by friends wanting to buy Adderall from them.

“I’m not going to lie,” Mary said. “I have sold pills before.”

With all of the stresses that come with college, it can be easy to justify taking a stimulant to help boost productivity.

The student pharmacy where adderall is distributed with a prescription, located in the Student Union. Patrick Delaney | Photo Editor
The student pharmacy where adderall is distributed with a prescription, located in the Student Union. Patrick Delaney | Photo Editor

“The increasing abuse of Adderall has more to do with the misfortunes of society — the overwhelming amount of pressure put on students due to the standards that are rising for them every year.” Minju Park, a columnist for the University of Illinois’ independent paper, The Daily Illini, wrote in October.

According to DrugWatch.com, “Full-time college students ages 18 to 22 were twice as likely to abuse Adderall as those of the same age not in college.”

Many students don’t see the harm in recreationally using Adderall to study more efficiently, but the drug can lead to some negative effects if not taken as treatment for ADHD.

Quartz magazine states that short-term effects include insomnia, increased blood pressure, irregular heart beat, appetite suppression, headaches, dry mouth and anxiety.

“Long usage [of Adderall] will certainly impact brain chemistry, we know that a drug of this level will have a long-term impact,” Gill said. “After a while, people need to increase dosage as they chase heightened dopamine levels. It changes their mood base.”

“These students … may not understand the risks,” Gill continued.

For some students, the extra help with studying may be worth the side effects. However, contrary to these students’ beliefs, several studies have shown that taking Adderall may not increase GPA at all.

“Prescription stimulants do promote wakefulness, but studies have found that they do not enhance learning or thinking ability when taken by people who do not actually have ADHD,” reads a study on ADHD medicine by DrugAbuse.gov. “Also, research has shown that students who abuse prescription stimulants actually have lower GPAs in high school and college than those who don’t.”

Adderall may have negative effects on nonmedical users as well as on students’ GPA. But what makes Adderall so dangerous is how easy it is to get on college campuses.

Briana said, “It has the same effect as speed and it’s so easy to get prescribed. And if you don’t have a prescription, it’s so easy to find someone with pills.”

By the Numbers

Recreational Adderall use may not increase GPA, but it could lead to abusing harder drugs.

The following is according to results found by The National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2009.

Full-time college students that used Adderall recreationally were:

  • Eight times more likely to have used cocaine in 2008 (28.9 percent vs. 3.6 percent)
  • Eight times more likely to have been nonmedical users of prescription tranquilizers (24.5 vs. 3 percent)
  • More than five times more likely to have been nonmedical users of prescription pain relievers (44.9 percent vs. 8.7 percent)

Tucker Berardi is the features editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @tucker_berardi.