Adderall abuse with students

Another interesting psychopharmacology issue. We’ve covered the SSRIs here before but the newest trend is among high-school and college-age wanting something to help them focus, do better on tests, etc. Adderall, prescription amphetamine salts for ADHD, seems to be the drug of choice. Article from the Christian Science Monitor follows. (A quick search on Google News shows just how much press this issue has been getting.)

A drug kids take in search of better grades
By Rebecca L. Weber | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

When Paul left home to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder, he took his prescription for the drug Adderall along with him. The medication is normally used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but Paul – who now believes he had been misdiagnosed – no longer used it for that purpose.

Instead, the journalism/business student says he took Adderall only occasionally and with a very specific intent: to help him focus on homework, or to stay up all night cramming for an exam. He also shared the pills with other students who did not have prescriptions, but who wanted Adderall for the same reasons he did.

Fellow students “always wanted my Adderall for studying,” says Paul, who asks that his last name not be used. “Certain individuals couldn’t study without it. They figured, ‘If I study all night on Adderall, I’d better take it for the test, too.’ ”

Adderall is the amphetamine most widely prescribed to treat ADD/ADHD. As with other amphetamines, regular users of Adderall can soon become dependent on it to get through the day.

Dubbed “kiddie coke,” Adderall is being used – and abused – by increasing numbers of high school and college students on campuses across the United States.

Although students often take the drug together – sometimes in study groups – their intent is not recreational. Rather, they use the stimulant in an attempt to enhance their powers of concentration and improve their academic performance.

“It’s a performance-enhancing drug,” says Punyamurtula Kishore, president and founder of the National Library of Addictions in Brookline, Mass., and a physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “They start accessing the drug legally, and then they find they can sell it for five or 10 bucks a pill to college kids.”

Pressure to earn ever-higher grades appears to be a primary motivation in the Adderall craze, say Dr. Kishore and other experts. In Massachusetts, where parents and school officials often have high expectations for students, more prescriptions are written for Adderall than in any other state.

Often, students begin imbibing while still living at home, and sometimes parents – unaware of the dangers involved – tolerate their misuse of the drug.

“A lot of families look the other way so that kids can stay up and study,” says Kishore. “It’s a myth that they’ll do better on exams … [But while on the drug] they feel they can conquer the world. Then they come down and crash.”

Although Adderall is often perceived as legal since physicians and pharmacists are involved in its dispensing, ultimately it is an illegal drug when used by somebody without a prescription. Campus policies on handling student drug users and dealers vary, but range from a warning with counseling to expulsion.

It’s hard to quantify the extent of Adderall abuse among students. Certainly the availability to children of drugs to treat ADD/ADHD has soared in recent years.

In the last 10 years, the number of preschoolers taking ADD/ADHD drugs has tripled; the number of school-age children has multiplied by 20. More than 2 million American children are prescribed drugs for ADD/ADHD. Adderall represents about a quarter of the market.

Statistics on the legitimate use of Adderall, of course, don’t reveal anything about patterns of illegitimate use. However, some experts suggest that the fact that the drug is viewed as a legitimate one may enhance its appeal – and its danger – to youthful users.

When Adderall is passed on from family or friends who have prescriptions to those who don’t, it has an aura of legality that street drugs don’t have. It’s pure, which makes it seem safer than unregulated drugs, where users don’t know what else it may have been cut with.

But in many states it’s a felony to be in possession of drug that has not been prescribed for the person using it. Prosecution, says Robert Goldstein, chief medical officer of Somnia, could be “equally as damning to a student” as addiction. When people see a prescription bottle, they think it’s OK – even when it’s taken inappropriately, says Dr. Kishore.

Students are more likely to take a single Adderall pill than drink 10 cups of coffee because, at least in the short term, it’s “longer acting and has fewer side effects than caffeine,” says Dr. Goldstein. “When used appropriately, it lasts an entire day.”

For 22-year-old Ben, it helped him concentrate for hours on end at the University of Michigan, his alma mater. Ben (not his real name) restricted his Adderall use to study periods.

After about 20 minutes, the drug would kick in. He says that the ability to concentrate intensely “helped time pass by better. I could read for four hours straight without looking up at the clock.”

When Ben describes the widespread use of Adderall at his alma matter, he said many students retained prescriptions from when they were young even though they no longer used the drug themselves. Some had stopped taking Adderall because of headaches or other side effects, yet were willing to going on supplying it to others, either to “help a friend in a crunch,” as Ben puts it, or to make some quick cash.

At Ann Arbor, blue pills (10 milligrams) normally sold for $3, and orange pills (20 milligrams) for $5, says Ben. Prices rose as demand exceeded supply during midterms and finals.

Ben, an English major, would frequently take the drug with his peers during study groups in the library. They also met afterward to share a joint to alleviate the inevitable side effects, which include restlessness, dizziness, and insomnia.

Kishore has counseled a number of such clusters – small groups of friends who have taken Adderall together, and become dependent on it together.

Overcoming the dependency is tough, Kishore says, especially for students who were using Adderall specifically to help them stay up to study and who need to learn to approach their studies in a new way. Treatment is normally done on an outpatient basis and involves teaching new coping behaviors and techniques.

Some also hope a new version of the drug could help reduce its misuse among younger students.

In 2001, Shire Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Adderall, introduced Adderall XR, a time-release version. The new version was developed primarily as a convenience, the company says. But because it is taken as a single daily dose, children don’t need to bring it to school, thus minimizing “any potential misuse or inappropriate transferring of medicine to individuals without a prescription.”

But some experts say that Adderall abuse is still not being taken seriously enough by many parents and adults.

Widespread toleration of Adderall misuse is similar to the blind eye too many adults cast on teenage drinking in the 1980s, says Goldstein.

“People didn’t pay attention or take it seriously, before groups like MADD,” he says. “[Minors drinking] isn’t just bad because they’re underage, it’s dangerous. If somebody gets in a car, they can injure others and themselves. It’s similar to being a parent throwing a party with kids drinking, only to find out you’re responsible for the car crash that happens later on.”

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161 thoughts on “Adderall abuse with students

  1. I have ADHD (combined type) and nothing makes me more angry then seeing people use adderall, and other stimulant adhd meds for recreational purposes. I first started looking into ADHD when I nearly flunked out of high school, but was told at the time that I was too old to get tested, and that you have to have corroboration of being hyper from elementary school teachers. I was a well behaved kid, and all my report cards noted my maturity and helpfulness. Sure I was a daydreamer to the point where it was difficult to follow conversations, and fidgeted (tapping my foot, clicking pens, tapping my fingers, hypergraphic doodling and notetaking, assemblign and disassembling pens and other desk nicknacks) but those were not taken into consideration. Basically I was told by Doctors that I was just drug seeking and needed to stop being such a lazy a-hole. Caffeine addiction and sleep deprivation scheduling are the only things that kept me passing in high school, particularly when moments of hyperfocus would strike. In college I was able to skate through for a while, but things began to fall apart. After getting into a really cool program of classes all related to my major, and failing the second section dispite spending all my time thinking about the class and things related to it (but unable to start the work, even if I spent the entire day sitting in front of it) I decided to get tested.

    Because I was uninsured and am a poor student (whose parents are not in a position to help financially), finding a therapist to test me and a doctor who would work with me was virtually impossible. It took two months following my diagnosis to gain access to a doctor. The reason: I would call saying that I was being treated for ADHD by a psychologist, and that I had a letter from her suggesting I work with a doctor about this, and possibly another physical problem (thyroid, which also impacts focus, and was suspected due to my very cold hands and lack of sense of smell). I was usually turned away because they said that they didn’t want to work with someone my age about ADHD unless they had a note from an insurance co. testifying that they werent a drug dealer.

    During that two month gap I did buy adderall on the black market, which at my school is pretty large. I bought it for a friend who had been taking it for studying on and off for years. This friend lives off of energy drinks, and adderall doesn’t make him hyper-focus or crazy, but just helps him study, keeps him calm, and prevents distraction. He’s watched the way I’m reacting now that I have medically supervised treatment (on lower cost, and IMO, more effective dexedrine SR) and is now seeking assessment himself. Research done by therapists who work with ADHD patients suggests that self-medicating with caffeine and illegal amphetamine use is common among those who are not diagnosed, and that the majority of people with ADHD have never been assessed or diagnosed, in part because they were not seen as disruptive or hyper as children. The zombie effect and other complaints that people, particularly kids, have about meds is possibly a result of misdiagnosis of very active children as being hyperactive. Women make up the majority of undiagnosed adhd cases, followed by primarily inattentive men.

    Sorry if this is kind of rambling. My main points are these:
    1) recreational use of adhd stimulant meds by college kids makes it harder for their peers who have adhd to gain access to the services and treatment they need by creating a bias that people in this age group are frivelous drug seekers.
    2. because it is very hard to get adhd legitimately if you do not have insurance (even if you have been diagnosed with adhd by more then one therapist or counselor) sometimes people who really need that medication have to turn to the black market.
    3) frequent recreational users, particularly those who don’t see some of the more negative side effects listed above, should seriously consider getting tested for adhd, or at least spend some time on the google machine looking into the research done on addiction and self-medication (esp. with amphetimines) by people with untreated adhd. Particularly look at studies of testing done on men in prison for meth.
    4) Many people currently prescribed ADHD meds do not need them, and many do not have ADHD. Most people with inattentive type ADHD are not diagnosed. While the black market for stimulants is a good way for people in the first category to make money (and I won’t deny this), it makes it more difficult for the second to recognize that they need treatment, and once they do decreases their ability to get treatment, both because of the stigma attached to seeking treatment because of the positive effects of illegal self-medication, and because both people who have ADHD and people who don’t take adderall recreationally it normalizes the behavior, and suggests to those who legitimately need treatment that their struggles and responses are normal, and are the way everyone else is reacting to school, stress, and the stims.

    One final point: if you fall into the category of people who have used stimulant meds recreationally and think that you might actually have a problem, please get tested. And if you are serious about wanting to get help then your best move would be to not tell whomever it is doing the assessment that you have used adderall etc. illegally. They will turn you away, and you will go on a blacklist. Also, best of luck to you.

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  2. Many posts here are informative, but the long ones are clearly written by folks who are wired-to-the-gills at the time of writing.
    42-yo male. Diagnosed w/ADHD (although, as some here have indicated, it is not a chemical test, but an interview, which can be fudged.)Adderall for 5 years. 30mg XR. Taking 45mg daily. 1 cap, + 1/2 loose from another cap. Sometimes chew, sometimes not.
    It has helped me a lot, but I have also had those days where 90mg seems to be the only thing to get me through the day.
    Acidic agents/compounds (juices, vitamins, sodas) make it harder for the body to absorb. Alkaline agents (antacids, sodium bicarb) make it easier to absorb. So if you are drinking a bunch of juice and taking vitamin C, then yes, you’ll need more Add. to feel the effects. So pay attention to EVERYTHING you put in your body and note how it affects your overall day – I love a big Mexican food fiesta, but feel AWFUL (bloated, fat, tired) afterward. So pay attention & be careful. If you are just using it for fun, STOP. Adderall may not be THE thing that fucks up your life, but using it as you do is a BIG warning sign that you will lie to yourself about why you’re doing foolish things. You will smack into a wall someday – rock bottom as they call it, but there are ways out and people who will help you. Just ask.

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  3. Back when I was in school we used to take “Dr Foy Specials” That would ‘allow us to focus’ on our studies. Riiiight. These are addictive anti-depressant drugs that the manufacturers have found a new market for. The fact that a whole new generation of students are getting addicted to these drugs is criminal.

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  4. oh for crying out loud people!! you know, for people who truly have add/adhd, those who maybe have some motivation issues due to depression and even the occasionally using college student in the midst of finals, it’s one thing. to use it to be able to drink more or to get fucked up is entirely something else. this is the shit that some news show will love to get it’s hands on and act like it’s the end of the fucking world that some kid uses it to cram at the end of the semester. they will find some set of parents who for whatever reason(s) didn’t address the signs that their troubled child was showing (probably for YEARS) and blame it all on adderall. people have used chemicals for years to both legitimately medicate and to temporarily enhance many things, be it caffeine at starbucks, viagra for your dick or a joint to calm the nerves at the end of the day. while there are the rare backfirings for some (and the risk is always present), addicts and abusers ruin shit for everybody.

    guess what? i managed to work 2 jobs, raise a child, run a household and get a degree in chemistry, all while smoking pot daily, which i essentially outgrew. i did it as a reward, much like a person has a glass of wine at the end of a day of hard work, and it was not a gateway drug as i did not drink, snort or inject anything else. i did not peddle it to children (mine has no idea), support terrorism or burn my brain cells into oblivion. now i take adderall because 2 years ago, i went through a depression that while lifted, left the lethargy and lack of motivation to get everyday things done. i plan on taking it to get me back to where i need to be and then be done. i don’t plan to continue taking it to get myself or someone else killed, so i can ruin for everyone. chances are, if you feel like you shouldn’t be taking it or it is beginning to overshadow it’s supposed benefits, then stop. get help and address the root of your problems. either find another medicine that may work for you or get some kind of therapy and quit expecting a fucking pill to be the answer to hard work and sifting through the rough shit in life. if you are taking it to get some sort of buzz or enhance your beer pong skills, you are a fucking douchebag who will probably be dead in 10 years anyway.

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  5. Pro-tip: if you’re taking adderall without a prescription, you’re taking it recreationally. Even if you only use it to study, if you don’t have a diagnosed need for it (diagnosed by a DOCTOR not your roommate), you’re doing drugs. Don’t fool yourself. Hate to break it to you, but the fact that all your buddies are doing it doesn’t make it any healthier. If you feel you really need adderall for ADHD or ADD, go to a doctor and ask. If you just want to take it to get a buzz, or cram for an exam, go for it, but don’t try to cloak it as some kind of safe-option miracle pill.

    Also, the mechanism of dependency and addiction varies from person to person. Some people can smoke a cigarette at a party once every couple months and nothing more. Some people can’t. Be smart. Don’t be too sure that ‘self-control’ is going to keep you from becoming addicted to amphetamines. Some people can get away with taking a pill or snorting a line every so often with minimal effect. Lucky them. I’m certainly not one of them. I’d rather have the 4 years of my life back that I spent putting stuff up my nose in order to feel smarter, thinner, and better about everything.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t take adderall if you have a diagnosed condition and your doctor feels that it will help you (and if it does help you). I’m not even trying to tell you how to get your kicks. Just be aware of what you’re doing. And be aware that if you find yourself taking meds without a prescription, the underlying reason you’re doing so may be different than you think. Many people try to self-medicate legitimate psychological problems with drugs and alcohol without realizing it.

    I don’t mean to come off as too preachy (even though I am), I just wouldn’t want anyone else going through what I went through with addiction if it can be avoided. Entirely apart from the psychological effects, I spent time in jail. For prescription drugs–not coke, not crystal meth, not heroin. My case isn’t exactly typical, but I’m proof. You can be a relatively smart, well-meaning, normal person, and still succumb.

    Final note: abusing stimulants stops seeming cool after college. Just like drinking until you black out and having sex with every person you come across just because you can.

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  6. My family recently found out that brother had become addicted to adderall. Our family has gone through hell. He was discharged from detox too early and crashed, and now he is back in the hospital. He became a monster over the past year and the stress and pain it has put on our family is a sin. If any of you are considering taking adderall, I beg you, I implore you, I plead to you…Please do not do it. This drug is very dangerous and it will destory your life. Get off it if you are taking it. God blessed each of us with a brain and cognitive thought – we don’t need drugs to succeed. We put a man on the moon without adderall. Please, please, please…with all of my heart… I plead with you…stay away from adderall. It is the devil.

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  7. Old blog, but super interesting. For Jame, the last reply, I’m curious as to what kind of Adderall user your brother was. I’m sorry you and your family had to go through that, but was your brother prescribed Adderall? Did he have any underlying anxiety or depression issues, or was his use purely recreational for the partying purpose?
    A few of my friends had recommended taking Adderall to study and whatnot, but I didn’t feel right taking it without a prescription so I saw a therapist at my school, who then referred my to a psychiatrist. Discussing the symptoms of ADD, I easily recognized situations that backed up the diagnosis, but I’m still not completely sure of it. Technically, I was diagnosed with ADHD, seeing as my “hyperactivity” could account for my presumed anxiety, lifetime talkativeness, bad habits like biting nails/etc, constant munching, and difficulty concentrating on anything. At the end of the first appointment with my psychiatrist, I couldn’t believe that he was already writing up a prescription. Due to my disbelief, I asked him if that was common, for individuals to be diagnosed later on rather than as a child. According to him, the smarter an individual is, the later they would notice symptoms of ADD, which made sense. As a child, I never really had to sit down and study for school since it always came easy to me. During high school, my grades slightly dropped as I spent more time sleeping than learning in classes. I always kept busy, whether with extra classes or work, which I think was really what got me through and into UCSB with a 3.8 GPA. Classes suddenly became more difficult as they required more of my time and I found it difficult to keep up in college. My first two quarters, I had a composite GPA of 2.3. Once I started taking about 20mg Adderall XR on school days my third quarter, I got grades no lower than an A- and brought my GPA up to a 2.90 🙂 I really learned to love studying this last quarter and I couldn’t have done it without the Adderall. It just gave me that motivation and extra push to study, if anything.
    Regarding “increased tolerance” of Adderall, it doesn’t exist. Adderall is effective in reducing the symptoms of ADD by stimulating this chemical in your brain called dopamine. Basically, since the dopamine can be used up quicker than it is produced, it can feel as if your tolerance is increasing. In that case, it’s true that an increased dosage will be more effective than your current one, but even if you take a day or two off the Adderall, your original dosage will become more efffective. My psychiatrist even recommended taking a few days off or even taking smaller doses rather than stronger ones, should my dosage seem ineffective.
    In my opinion, it’s an astoundingly helpful drug if used with care. The only negative side effects I’ve noticed have been on days I haven’t taken any. When I’m on Adderall, I really don’t mind the dry mouth and I actually like the loss of appetite, which is a prevalent reason I’m using the prescription during the summer. When I skip a day or two (usually when I end up sleeping in since taking it later in the day isn’t the best idea), I end up eating much more in comparison, and just feel sluggish and tired as hell, so I can definitely see how it can become addictive.
    I practically wrote an essay; go figure, critics would definitely blame it on the Adderall… I also had at least 4 cups of coffee today too, to get in a better mood before work, so they definitely compliment each other.
    Essentially, I’m unsure of whether or not I’d recommend this drug considering its wide potential for abuse. If you do consider it, I would ONLY RECOMMEND using it under the supervision of a licensed doctor. It’s definitely not something you should take just to stay awake because it will screw you over, and you really don’t know the side effects or dangers of it, prescription/legal drug or not. RX drug or not, it is still illegal if you are not prescribed it. Everyone reacts to RX drugs differently, so you never know what side effects you might experience even if friends/yourdrugdealer claim not to have any negative effects.
    Good luck!

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  8. I abused adderal for a long time. I understand the respect though there is another drug for you to try. it is a non script form from the doctor. you can recieve it at CVS pharmacy under the vitamins section or ask a pharmasist for FOCUS FACTOR. works just the same…this is a miracle vitamin for me. so please mother’s and/or father’s try using FOCUS FACTOR it is $40 a bottle. god bless you guys…

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  9. Just figured I would toss in my two cents without fear of the change being thrown back at me.

    As someone who is diagnosed with ADHD and is prescribed adderall ir, very large daily quantities, and someone who has had to sell it to survive, I have seen normal people take this and enjoy the superhuman effect so much that within a week they are fiends for the drug. And I do mean fiends. They have begged pleaded cried etc. all for enough to get through a day. I hate myself for ever thinking I was helping anyone. This is a dangerous highly addictive drug, it is not to be taken lightly. One thing that no one seems to mention is the tolerance issue, you will build a tolerance up so fast that instead of taking one to study its two then 3 then 1 to study 1 to remember, 1 to party, preatty soon they do not work at all and you end up bumping them, and looking for anything that might give you the effect. Myself I guess because I have ADHD I am able to sleep normal, and the euphoric feeling doesn’t exist now, in the beginning it did. Who doesnt want to be superman? But this drug will also make you a machine, unable to think or care about tomorrow, only the now this very second, and also excessive use can lead to being antisocial because others don’t fit into the bubble you now live in where its just you and your adderall.
    In a nut shell I have seen what this drug is capable of, both good and bad. If you don’t have a disorder that needs it please dont take it. It is prescription cocaine. And to take this recreationally is to be digging your grave both physically mentally socially etc. would you dig your grave for fun? How about make your own tombstone? As funny as that sounds it is exactly what you are doing. Just because it comes in bottle from a pharmacy does not make it safe, morphine, methadone, both come from a pharmacy and in my opinion are just as bad as adderall. You look at the addict taking heroin and think at least you are not that bad, when in actuality your both in the same boat. I just can’t stress enough the addiction the comes with this drug. Most likely no one will listen to me for who am I to preach? It is just not a safe drug to be toying with.

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