June 24th, 2011
College Adderall boom has unintended side effects
Studying for finals. Paying attention in class. Simply wanting to feel wired. The explosion of illegal Adderall use by students on college campuses across the country has many root causes– and a number of strange side effects.
The pill’s medical purpose is to help individuals with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and narcolepsy. Yet, it’s being increasingly co-opted by college students looking for an academic edge or a head-trip. Recent articles in both The Captain’s Log at Virginia’s Christopher Newport University and The Daily Pennsylvanian at the University of Pennsylvania cited a study confirming full-time students are twice as likely to illegally use Adderall as individuals their age who are not in school or only enrolled part-time.
“This is a problem that exists on a lot of college campuses and there are basically two or three different ways college students use Adderall,” Lisa Laitman, director of a drug and alcohol assistance program at Rutgers University, told The Daily Targum last fall. “One is a sort of performance enhancement, [which] would mean that someone is simply using Adderall to study better and stay up. The other way, obviously, is to abuse the drug to get high.”
Along with the mental effects, one social consequence of Adderall’s immense popularity among students: an almost ridiculous amount of peer pressure on those in possession of the pills. Students who have been prescribed the drug for medical reasons say they are regularly accosted by friends, roommates, and classmates who are looking for a quick Adderall fix.
As one CNU student admitted, “I have to deadbolt my door so that nobody breaks into my room looking for Adderall. I carry my prescriptions around in my purse just to be safe. . . . People offer me money. They guilt me and say, ‘I’m going to do so bad on this paper, I really need this Adderall.’”
On the flip side, undergrads eager to dispense the drug illegally are making quite a bit of cash. In a fall 2010 piece, headlined “Adderall: A College Love Story,” The California Aggieconfirmed that the booming “black-market for the drug” at UC Davis was enabling some students to reap serious financial rewards. One UC Davis sophomore who doubles as an Adderall dealer told the Aggie, “Over the course of the quarter, I average around $200 a week, mostly from students taking midterms or writing papers. But once finals week rolls around, I’m usually pulling in around $1,200 the last two weeks of the quarter.”
Students’ usage of the so-called “study drug” is apparently becoming so prevalent that some say it is putting non-Adderall users at an academic disadvantage. As University of North Carolina senior Elizabeth Melenbrink argued in a letter to the editorpublished this past fall in The Daily Tar Heel , “The use of Adderall in academics certainly makes the playing field less even. If it’s so easy to get a hold of, then should we compromise our standards and use it too so that we can compete on a higher level? Are the disparities so great that universities should implement such extreme measures as drug testing before exams? Is it a legitimate excuse to explain away my (low) GPA by my refusal to use Adderall?”
Is Adderall use a major part of underground student life at your college or university? Do you think it gives students who take it an unfair academic edge?