College kids are exposed to all sorts of new experiences and ideas, but not all of these experiences are healthy or beneficial.
Incoming freshmen may have never heard of Adderall before, but they will after a few weeks or months at school.
Before long, many new college students will find that some of their friends are buying the drug from fellow students who have a prescription. They will hear talk that Adderall is a wonder drug. It is called the ‘study drug’ because it can help collegiates stay awake and alert in order to study and can even help them concentrate better on homework and tests.
Another of the drug’s touted benefits is its ability to stave off hunger.
The dream pill lie
It’s like the college girl dream pill — one that helps you improve grades and lose weight at the same time. Young college girls are starting to keep pace with the men on campus in terms of alcohol consumption. Adderall is viewed as the ideal counterbalance to all those extra alcohol calories.
Concern over taking medication not prescribed doesn’t appear to be on the radar for many college co-eds, but it should be. Adderall is a schedule II (meaning a high risk for addiction or abuse) stimulant commonly prescribed to people suffering with narcolepsy or attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Adderall helps to normalize brain function by calming them and enabling them to organize thoughts that have been so scattered that they have had difficulty learning.
There is a certain amount of off-label prescribing too, meaning doctors have prescribed Adderall to treat a condition other than those approved by the FDA or intended by the drug’s manufacturer, such as treatment-resistant depression or obesity.
When college students decide that buying Adderall from a legitimate patient is too cumbersome, they sometimes decide to become a patient themselves. A significant number of students are faking ADHD symptoms in a doctor’s office in order to obtain their own prescription. It’s a simple matter of reading about ADHD symptoms online and then reporting them during a regular visit to the doctor. In fact, a 2011 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report found that kids 18-22 years going to college full-time were two times more likely than part-time students or non-students to engage in Adderall abuse.
The problem is that while the drug normalizes brain function for those with legitimate conditions, when it is abused by healthy people it can be very dangerous. Adderall speeds up the body’s metabolism and lowers appetite, which is how it contributes to weight loss. However, it also speeds up the heart. If the student has an unknown heart problem, at best, this could cause irregular heartbeat and, at worst, it could lead to cardiac arrest. Misuse of Adderall also increases the risk of stroke, high blood pressure and could even precipitate an obsessive compulsive disorder.
Addictive and risky
Furthermore, the drug is potentially addictive to healthy people because it stimulates the release of dopamine, the brain’s pleasure chemical. At first, taking Adderall makes the student feel great, with more alertness and energy and less hunger. The trouble is that pretty soon the brain makes an association between popping a pill and feeling good. This sort of mental association is what drives addiction. And because the brain does an excellent job of adjusting to new conditions, it isn’t long before taking just one pill doesn’t give the same jolt as before.
College students who are misusing Adderall in order to help their grades or to lose weight are making a very risky decision that can have serious health consequences.