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.
Since 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 is 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.
1. College students are twice as likely to abuse Adderall: And, from
there, full-timers between the ages of 18 and 22 were the demographic most at risk for taking the stimulant without a prescription, at twice the rate of
part-timers and older students.
Fifteen percent of college students have illegally ingested Adderall, Ritalin or another stimulant in the past year: These numbers, which fluctuate based on individual campuses, reflect a study conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Only around 2
percent of these hold a prescription, and 14 percent state that their peers have made offers of money or favors if they agree to hand over their pills.
3. Adderall is habit-forming Because it’s a stimulant, it is 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.
Overdoses could lead to heart failure: 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.
Overdoses can also alter brain chemistry permanently: 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.
Adderall abuse is most common during midterm and finals weeks: This is 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 percent of undergraduates reported
abusing Adderall and similar stimulants during these strenuous times.
7. Some students take it recreationally:
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, since doctors prescribe it for attention deficit disorder (ADD)
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (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.
Adderall is considered a Schedule II Controlled Substance: Therefore, 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. Intent to sell, though, carries a much higher penalty than buying and could mean a potentially career-destroying felony.
9. Dealers can get between $7 and $10 per pill: It’s cheap, especially
when one considers the cost of more difficult-to-acquire drugs. College students diagnosed with ADD or ADHD can sell off their prescriptions and make a
nice little profit—sometimes up to 800 percent—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).
10. Some students fake ADD or ADHD symptoms to acquire prescriptions: How
many? Would you believe around 95 percent of those reporting abuse? 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 or 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.
Most college-age Adderall abusers hold a GPA of 3.0 or below: 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 students 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.
In 2006, an estimated 7 million Americans admitted to abusing prescription stimulants: 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 and ADHD users and those without the diagnoses, though the former
have medical professionals regulating dosages to prevent horrific side effects as much as possible.
13. Adderall abusers are more likely to be binge drinkers: According to
the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 90 percent 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.
Colleges have had to specifically cite Adderall abuse as against school policy: The staggering majority of colleges sports an illicit substance policy in student handbooks. 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.
Forty percent of teens think it’s OK to abuse prescription drugs because they’re “much safer” than the street equivalent: 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 percent believe that, because of its prescription status, addiction is impossible, and 39 percent think that, because of this,
it’s acceptable to abuse without using a doctor as an intermediary.
A version of this article first appeared on the Medical Billing and Coding blog, here.