Along with tuition, students swallowing or snorting Adderall, Ritalin, and other amphetamines available by prescription (or, more likely, available via connections with prescriptions) stands as one of the most volatile issues impacting the education system today, particularly at the college level. Seeing as how society tends to push achievements as the be-all, end-all of existence, it’s easy to see why so many turn toward abusing these drugs when the desperation to perform grows way too overwhelming. All this despite the fact that they’re essentially shoveling unregulated speed, which most wouldn’t otherwise touch, into their mouths and nasal passages just to gain an advantage over the competition. When one starts looking at the true reality of Adderall abuse, things start growing more than a little dim.
These numbers, which fluctuate based on individual campuses, reflect a study conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Only around 2% of these hold a prescription, and 14% state that their peers have made offers of money or favors if they agree to hand over their pills.
Seeing as how it’s a stimulant and all, it is entirely possible to form an addiction to Adderall and similar prescription drugs. Especially when one starts consuming the pills without a doctor to take weight, possible interactions, and other factors of responsible medication into consideration, the risk of both addiction and a dangerous, potentially deadly, overdose increase.
Even kids using Adderall responsibly and beneath the care of a doctor have still lost their lives to the stimulant. While no definitive statistics about deaths stemming from an overdose seem to exist just yet, science does know that the most severe overdoses result in heart attacks, deadly blood clots, and other circulatory issues. Especially when engaging in behaviors exerting too much stress on the heart. Just like every other drug of its kind out there.
Overdose survivors still might not necessarily make it out of the incident unscathed. Given Adderall’s chemical nature, the drug can completely change a user’s personality with prolonged use. And even if it doesn’t directly kill him or her, such a switch can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. Neither scenario is exactly worth earning a few extra grade points.
Understandable, since college kids feel the extra pressure to PERFORM PERFORM PERFORM despite balancing numerous responsibilities. And with midterms and finals holding so much clout, the tensions do nothing but mount. On the national level, between 30% and 40% of undergraduates reported abusing Adderall and similar stimulants during these strenuous times.
Most reported incidents of Adderall abuse occur when desperate students without prescriptions need to focus on exams or assignments, but a few do enjoy it for recreational purposes. For one thing, it’s an incredibly easy-to-find amphetamine, what with doctors prescribing it for ADD/ADHD and other common learning disabilities. And since it’s available via the medical field, crushing it up and snorting doesn’t exactly carry the same stigma as cocaine or speed, even if the side effects remain largely the same.
Meaning anyone caught with pills not prescribed by a doctor is subjected to the very same criminal charges as those possessing opiates, methamphetamine, methylphenidate, and other amphetamines. Drugs in this class involve an extremely high risk of addiction and overdose, and exact penalties vary from state to state. Suffice it to say, though, intent to sell carries a much higher penalty than buying and could mean a potentially career-destroying felony.
It’s cheap, especially when one considers the cost of more difficult-to-acquire drugs. A college student diagnosed with ADD/ADHD can sell off their prescriptions and make a nice little profit — sometimes up to 800% — from exploiting their peers’ drive to succeed. This isn’t exactly a recommended strategy for chipping away at tuition costs, of course (see the previous fact).
Around 95% of those reporting abuse, in fact. Such exaggeration means receiving prescriptions for dosages much bigger than their brain chemistries can actually handle. And messing with dopamine levels, as mentioned before, doesn’t exactly bode well for long-term mental health in the event students start hitting the (pill) bottle harder than they otherwise would and become addicted. Meanwhile, individuals who genuinely need the pills to function — studies have shown a physiological root to ADD/ADHD — wind up facing stigma and marginalization as a result of everyone co-opting and parodying their very real struggles for an easy drug fix.
Although, of course, that doesn’t mean those with GPAs in the much higher range are immune to giving it a go, either. What makes Adderall, Ritalin, and other amphetamines so appealing on campus is how they concentrate focus and render it far easier to cram in all the work required of them in a society promoting success at all costs. It makes sense that comparatively underperforming students would turn to them in order to gain an edge over temporal, academic, and resourceful setbacks.
These aren’t just the stereotypical high school college students, either, and chances are the exact number has increased since 2006 thanks to greater accessibility and a heightened awareness of Adderall’s benefits. They work on both ADD/ADHD users and those without the diagnoses, though the former have medical professionals regulating dosages to prevent horrific side effects as much as possible.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 90% of college students who ingested Adderall without a prescription also binge drank or qualified as “heavy drinkers” over those who did not. This statistic applies to both of-age and underage respondents.
Every college out there — or, at least, the staggering majority — sports an illicit substance policy in its student handbook. But in order to combat the recent spate of Adderall abuse, schools such as Duke, Wesleyan, and Dartmouth have all had to amend theirs to include prescription drug abuse.
This is despite the fact that Adderall, when used outside of a carefully controlled environment, is basically the exact same thing as the street equivalent. Furthermore, 29% believe that, because of its prescription status, addiction is impossible, and 39% think that, because of this, it’s acceptable to abuse without using a doctor as an intermediary.