Adderall ‘Study Drug’ Has Tight Grip on Students

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Most drug abuse occurs because the substance produces euphoric effects for the user that they want to repeat as frequently as possible. Steroids are a notable exception to this rule, commonly being abused out of a desire to “bulk up” or otherwise improve physical appearance. Although the purpose is different, the model of steroid abuse is useful for understanding the causes of Adderall abuse among college and high school students, and it’s been referred to as the “academic steroid” for that reason.

Rather than getting a buzz from the substance as users of most drugs (like cocaine or heroin) do, those who abuse Adderall do so to aid their studying, cram for exams or turn out pieces of coursework in record time. The problem has existed for a long time, but recent evidence indicates that Adderall abuse is still an issue among students. Finding out about the drug and its continued abuse helps you understand the emerging issues with teen abuse of prescription medicines.


Adderall is a medication used for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. This combination of substances makes it roughly the same as “speed,” the street name for amphetamines as a recreational drug. For those struggling to retain focus as a result of ADHD, the drug is essential to continued functioning and can help suffers get the most out of their education. Coartney Row is an example of a typical medicinal Adderall user, a part-time student and mother of two with ADHD, who uses the drug to “stay awake and just to function.” However, many others who use Adderall depend on people like her to get their fix.

The ‘Study Drug’

Adderall’s effects are ideal for individuals who naturally have extreme difficulty with focus as a result of ADHD. It corrects the impact of the condition and enables suffers to attain a level of attention and focus typical of non-affected individuals. If a healthy person takes the drug, however, the effect of boosting concentration and focus doesn’t disappear. Instead, the drug provides him or her with unnatural levels of focus, as well as combating tiredness and thereby enables extensive study sessions. For this reason, use in high schools and colleges is common in non ADHD sufferers, and professional football players have also been known to abuse the drug for the same basic purpose.

According to a scientific review from California, in 2012, 14 percent of students said they’d been asked to sell, trade or otherwise distribute the drug. A medicinal user and part-time student, Row was also approached by friends and fellow students looking for a dose of her Adderall to help them with studying. At first, like many students do, she agreed to give those who approached her some of her supply of Adderall. This isn’t the only way students gain access to Adderall, however, with 95 percent of surveyed students claiming that they could fool health professionals and be falsely diagnosed with ADHD in order to get a supply of the drug. There may be a bit of exaggeration due to the self-reported nature of this finding, but the true figure would still be undoubtedly high.

Dependence and Health Effects

The main problem is that, like other drugs of abuse (including many other pharmaceuticals), Adderall can lead to dependence and addiction. This leaves users feeling like they need to continue to take the drug to function normally. Row observed this behavior in her non-ADHD suffering fellow students, who would approach her and tell her how they couldn’t pass their classes without it, asking her to give them more of the drug. Ultimately, this potential of dependence is what led her to begin refusing to supply the drug to anybody else.

The side effects associated with Adderall are also more likely to occur when the drug is abused, because it is often consumed in larger doses than is medically advised. These include restlessness, stomach pain, nausea, loss of appetite, shaking and more serious potential consequences like seizures, chest pain, paranoia and rapid heartbeat. With each large dose resulting from continued addiction to the drug, users run the risk of any of these potential effects occurring.

A Continuing Issue

Despite the negative side effects and addiction associated with Adderall abuse, the issue is still ongoing in high schools and colleges across the U.S. There are many potential explanations for this, with many pointing toward increased pressure on students to perform academically, but it isn’t such a simple problem to solve. Like with steroid abusers, the ordinary treatment methodologies focus on abuse for euphoric effects rather than “performance enhancing” use, and this is an important point for anybody trying to deal with the issue. As with all drug abusers, though, underlying psychological problems (likely a lack of self-confidence, in this instance) are to blame for the reliance on substances, and we need to focus on these points—as well as explain the various risks of Adderall abuse—in order to truly combat the issue.

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