It’s Not Just for ADHD Anymore: College Students Using Amphetamines to Boost Their Grades

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Young college students today grew up in an academic world where the letters ADHD were surfacing as a commonly mentioned acronym in elementary school offices. Medicines were discreetly and carefully distributed to select students who suffered from attention deficit disorder. Today, millions of people receive ADHD prescription medication and the drug is casually getting into the hands of students who do not even have ADHD. Today’s young adults are using these medications to enhance their grades.

The sales for ADHD medications reached $7.2 billion last year. The Washington Post reported that the sales for Adderall, one of these commonly used medications, climbed more than 3,100 percent between 2002 and 2005 in the United States.

Adderall is a mixture of amphetamines that helps a person focus intensely on their work so they can speed through it while retaining information. As early as 1959, researchers found that amphetamines helped Stanford varsity athletes excel. Today, college students use the drugs to excel academically. Students think of it as a miracle drug to pump up their grades.

According to a report in the journal Addiction, a nationwide poll stated that one in four college students are taking an ADHD medication without a prescription. Even middle school and high school students have begun this trend. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America stated that one in ten children in these grades are misusing drugs like Adderall or Ritalin.

The New York Times reports that college students use the drug casually. The drug is easy to acquire and relatively inexpensive. They think of it as a legitimate and accessible drug to help them have better academic performance.

The Times also reported that some college students who have prescriptions for ADHD are selling their pills or bartering them for other things. Students usually get from $3 to $5 for each pill. What is unsettling is that these students don’t see any problem with exchanging medications without having prescriptions. One student even compared using Adderall to as harmless as using Tylenol.

Adderall may be helping students work faster and more efficiently, but there are also drawbacks to using the medicine. Eric Heilingenstein, the clinical director of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, cautions that while it keeps your mind focused on what you’re doing, it allows no peripheral vision for creativity. He added that while Adderall energizes and powers users one day, they often feel fatigue and depression the next day.

Heilingenstein cautions that overuse of the drug can lead users to become addicted to amphetamines. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the chronic abuse of amphetamines can cause a psychotic condition similar to schizophrenia, where a person suffers from things such as hallucinations and paranoia. When users try to withdraw from amphetamine abuse, they suffer symptoms such as fatigue, depression, nightmares and panic attacks. Even after withdrawing from amphetamine use, some people still suffer from psychotic symptoms years later.

As of yet, no government restrictions on the sale and distribution of Adderall are in place to force a decline in sales. Doctors can prescribe up to three 30-day prescriptions, so that patients don’t get all 90 at one time. In the meantime, users must shoulder the responsibility to use their prescriptions wisely.

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