ADHD Meds in College

This is a guest post written by Joshua John

Young adults are the fastest-growing demographic taking medication to treat their ADHD.  Between 2007 and 2011, the number of monthly prescriptions written for people ages 20 to 39 increased from 5.6 million to almost 14 million, according to a report in  The New York Times. As the number of young college-aged people taking the medication rises, so does the possibility of abuse.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, commonly known as ADHD, is a behavioral disorder marked by an inability to focus, impulsive behavior, and hyperactivity. Many people with ADHD take medication, using either stimulants like Adderall or non-stimulants like Strattera, to help manage the disorder.

According to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, stimulants are the most widely used ADHD medication. Stimulants improve ADHD symptoms by helping to maintain focus, but they can also diminish appetite, increase  heart rate, and make it difficult to fall asleep.  While the side effects may give some pause, many college students without ADHD use these stimulants specifically because of the drugs’ ability to give them superhuman focus while staving off sleep. Suddenly, thanks to Adderall, Ritalin, and similar medication, all-nighters and intensive homework assignments can be tackled with ease.

Students who misuse stimulants fail to recognize the potentially dangerous situation in which they’re inadvertently putting themselves. Adderall and other stimulants are incredibly addictive, and the Food and Drug Administration warns that the drugs can lead to heart problems as well as behavioral and mental issues such as aggression or hostility. In light of the drugs’ addictive properties, the government has classified stimulants as a Schedule II substance in order to prevent abuse. This classification means that there are no refills on the medication, and prescriptions must be written every month.

Since stimulants require a prescription, non-ADHD students seeking to experience laser focus and exceptional information retention have two options: feign symptoms and get a prescription or get the pills through someone who has them.

In a Rock Center with Brian Williams video from Fall 2012, Stephan Perez, a former Columbia University student who was caught dealing Adderall, explains how he got a prescription from the school psychologist. Perez says that a friend told him to go to Health Services and talk about his difficulty focusing and studying.  After meeting with a psychologist and answering a few questions, he would receive a prescription.  It worked.

Stimulant usage is quite common on college campuses. As a Schedule II substance, stimulants belong in the same category as other addictive drugs like cocaine and oxycodone. Students can easily become dependent on the stimulants to finish assignments, and if they’re caught misusing them, they can be charged with a felony.

What To Do If A Friend Is Abusing Stimulants

If you have a non-ADHD friend who is using stimulants to boost his/her academic performance, sit down and talk about the serious nature of the medication. Emphasize the significant likelihood of developing an addiction to the stimulant, which will undoubtedly have a negative effect on your friend’s day to day activities. Suggest devising a regular homework schedule so that the two of you can work together and motivate each other without having to use stimulants.

Even if you have a conversation with your friend, you should still speak to someone at your school’s health services facility. You don’t have to share your friend’s name or unnecessary specifics about the situation. But conversing with a professional can help you figure out alternate ways of getting your friend to quit using stimulants. Many schools have a policy that allows students to come forward about substance abuse issues without any negative consequences in order to encourage students to get help.

About the Author
Joshua John is the community manager for MBA@UNC and MPA at UNC, the University of North Carolina’s online mba and online mpa degree. He is an avid health enthusiast, who enjoys spinning, hiking, and yoga. He also loves gadgets, movies, and all things Batman. Follow him on twitter: @joshuavjohn
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  • Gina Pera

    The problem is, many of the students “abusing” stimulants do, in fact, have ADHD. For some, it’s more hip to “abuse” stimulants than to adhere to a medication regimen following a valid diagnosis.

    This is a very complicated issue.

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      As there any numbers as to how many are ADHD?

    • Joshua John

      I think there maybe students “abusing” stimulants and have ADHD, but
      they may have no had the proper diagnosis and often times don’t even

      • Jeffs ADD Mind

        Josh, I assume you mean “don’t even know” they have ADHD…which may have been the case in that NY Times article of a few weeks ago.

  • trifle

    As a second year college student at a private, preppy, well to do school I can definitely say this article is quite truthful.

    Lots of people here take Adderall and such as a study drug and don’t think twice about it. I however am someone whom has to rely on my medication just to function and would give anything to not have to take it. So I find it frustratingly offensive that all these people take these meds recreationally and it gives them all such a high and false opinion of these drugs and they have no idea what really needing and having to take them is like.

    In my opinion all that a Dr. would really need to do to find out if a kid is abusing them or not would be to ask them how they feel about the drug. If they go on and on about how wonderful it is, they might be abusers. Because anyone that has to rely on a drug in this situation to function in the world would give their left arm to get rid of their ADD.

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      You raise an interesting point, namely that those who rely on the drug just so they can function during the course of the day have a vastly different experience from those who don’t need it and, instead, use it as a mental accelerant. However, whether you could get a non-ADHDer who wants that Adderall prescription to provide an honest response, well, that’s another story.

  • jeena smith

    Yes, i am also in favor of this.
    Warning a friend about its bad effects is very necessary, as this can ruin their life.
    Thanks for the info.

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      It seems like good advice (remember…I didn’t write this post) but one must also have a backup plan. I knew about the dangers of various drugs I had taken when I was a teenager way back when…and no one could have told me anything that would have changed my behavior.

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