Adderall is the brand name for a prescription medication, which is a mix of drugs called amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It is a stimulant commonly prescribed to treat ADHD, but may also treat narcolepsy. As a stimulant, Adderall is susceptible to abuse. With many cases of diagnosed ADHD, Adderall is easy to access for young people who want to abuse it. What may be surprising to some is that many students, both in high school and college, are not abusing Adderall for fun, but rather as a study aid. The potential consequences of this abuse are serious.
Adderall Is a Stimulant
Although children with ADHD may seem stimulated enough, Adderall actually helps them to focus, pay attention and calm down. It is most effective when taken as directed and when combined with behavioral therapy. Stimulants act in the body by revving up various functions or, in other words, stimulating the body and brain. They cause heart rate and blood pressure to go up and increase the release of certain chemicals in the brain that cause alertness and wakefulness. It is these last two effects that have led ambitious students to abuse Adderall.
Adderall Abuse in Students
While some people do abuse Adderall and other stimulants just to get a jolt and a high, the bigger reason is to be able to stay awake and alert to study through the night or to finish an academic paper. These students believe that Adderall gives them an edge in their academics. Many turn to stimulants because of the pressure they feel to succeed. The risks are serious, though, and include side effects, addiction and long-term harm.
We know that students are abusing Adderall in this way because of research. One study in particular went straight to the students themselves to find out just how much they were using Adderall. The researchers gathered information from thousands of Twitter tweets to gain insight into college-level stimulant abuse. They found that hundreds of thousands of tweets contained a reference to Adderall over the course of six months. The references peaked during college exam times. Many of the tweets also referenced the motivation for using Adderall: to study more effectively. College students are not the only ones abusing stimulants, however; as recently as 2012, surveys indicate that up to 15 percent of high school seniors are using them as study aids.
Risks to Students Abusing Adderall
Adderall is one of the most commonly prescribed medications, which means that students have easy access to it. Because it is so common and because it is a prescription, many young people fail to realize how harmful the drug can be. The assumption that prescriptions are safe is prevalent and false. Just the side effects can be serious and may include bloody urine, bladder pain, an irregular heartbeat, lower back pain, flu-like symptoms, coughing, anxiety, dry mouth, weight loss and muscle weakness. These are only the most common side effects.
There are other risks as well, not least of which is the potential for addiction. Stimulants are addictive drugs and when not taken as prescribed by a doctor, can lead to dependence. Students may begin to find that they cannot focus or stay alert without their stimulant fixes. It is also important to consider the underlying issue. Students are using these drugs because they feel overwhelmed. Instead of dealing with the root cause of their stresses, they are turning to a quick fix. A better solution would be to seek counseling or to learn relaxation techniques. The risks of abusing Adderall to study greatly outweigh any perceived benefits.