We’re writing more about Adderall abuse on college campuses – a phenomenon that is clearly running rampant as students cope with pressures to succeed in college. Our own Stephen Odom and our facility was featured on a Today show expose about Adderall abuse on college campuses a few months ago.
At colleges across the country, students are returning to campus and will soon be sacrificing sleep in favor of studying and completing assignments (and partying). Coffee and energy drinks have long been used as stimulants by students, but a significant number are turning to stronger drugs as study aids. For the past several years, the use of the addictive drug Adderall by college students has been a growing problem. The drug, which is a form of amphetamine normally prescribed for narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), allows students to focus and resist sleep for many hours.
In 2007, an estimated 6.4 percent of full-time students ages 18 to 22 admitted to having used Adderall for non-medical reasons. Although Adderall is considered safe when administered under a doctor’s care, it can be dangerous when abused. The USFDA has labeled Adderall as having “high potential for abuse” and capable of causing sudden death. Stephen Odom, a substance abuse counselor at the Sober Living by the Sea treatment center, spoke about the effects of Adderall on NBC’s Today show last spring. He called it a highly addictive substance. “For all intents and purposes, Adderall is speed.”
Adderall is sold on college campuses by students who have legitimate prescriptions. There are also students who obtain fraudulent prescriptions by visiting a doctor and lying about their symptoms. Many research the symptoms of ADHD and then repeat them to a doctor who will write them a prescription for Adderall.
National drug policymakers are concerned about the use of Adderall by college students for several reasons. One of the main reasons is that students who are attracted to Adderall typically abuse multiple substances.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), about 90 percent of college students who admit to using Adderall nonmedically are binge drinkers and more than half admit to being heavy alcohol users. These students are also 3 times more likely to use marijuana, 5 times more likely to abuse prescription tranquilizers and 8 times more likely to abuse prescription painkillers. Alarmingly, almost 30 percent of students who used Adderall also use cocaine. Both drugs are stimulants that increase the risk for stroke and heart attack when taken alone or in combination.
Students who abuse Adderall are usually not aware of the possible side effects. The Today show profiled a university scholarship student named Aly who accepted a “smart pill” from a friend and soon found herself taking several Adderall pills a day. This underlines another problem with the nonmedical use of Adderall – many students ignore recommended dosage levels. Aly began to suffer from insomnia, mood swings, panic attacks and depression. Her grades took a nosedive and within a year she was asked to leave the university. Adderall is seen as a miracle smart drug by many students, but it is only a temporary crutch that suppresses fatigue. As evidenced by the experience of Aly and other students, it does not improve cognitive abilities and can instead lead to problems with addiction.
Our treatment center for men is equipped to address Adderall abuse and other prescription drug addiction.