The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Stressed students turning to Adderall

Use of perscription drug increases during exams

As recently as a few years ago, students drank exorbitant amounts of coffee and soft drinks to stay up late studying or writing a paper. Today, students say they are saving their pocket change and shelling out bigger bucks for Adderall, the latest rage among high school and college students.

Adderall is a dextroamphetamine used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, neurologically based developmental disorders characterized by unusually short attention spans, said Christen Menzel, coordinator in the Center for Alcohol & Drug Abuse Prevention at the SMU Memorial Health Center.

Menzel said many students have reported that they know people who have abused Adderall regularly. Although Menzel does not consider it a major problem among SMU students, she believes it poses a potentially serious concern.

“People are not giving it due credit,” she said. “What scares me about Adderall is if [the students are] increasing their frequency [of usage], they’re increasing their tolerance, and they’re not even aware of it.”

Many students say they use Adderall when they have tests in order to enhance their ability to study more intensely.

“It just helps when I have a lot to do,” said “David,” a student who requested anonymity. “I don’t study ahead of time; I just take it and stay up all night.”

David, who does not have a prescription for Adderall, takes a 20-milligram dose one night about every two weeks when he has a test. He said that one dose lasts between four and five hours. On coming down off of Adderall, David said that he usually doesn’t feel any huge effects. However, he said that he becomes very tired from not having slept.

Menzel said doctors prescribe Adderall to people who have chemical imbalances in their brains in order to help them function at normal levels.

“[When people without a prescription take Adderall] they are experiencing the same kinds of problems that someone would if they were using speed,” she said.

As an amphetamine, Adderall is in the same family of stimulants as Ritalin and street drugs such as crystal meth or methamphetamine. Although the drug is not chemically addictive, students who frequently take Adderall can develop a dependence on it. It can cause side effects such as nervousness, nausea, dizziness, headaches, increased heart rate and blood pressure, digestive problems, insomnia, loss of appetite and depression upon withdrawal, according to the Memorial Health Center.

“Karen,” another SMU student who requested anonymity, started abusing Adderall during her first year in college. Now a junior, she continues to use it heavily during finals or if she has multiple tests in a week. When asked about the side effects, she said she was aware of the risks but didn’t consider them serious enough to stop taking Adderall.

“I feel like when I take Adderall it serves as a confidence booster, and I can absorb the information better,” she said.

“Kate,” an SMU senior who requested anonymity, has a doctor’s prescription for Adderall. She was prescribed Adderall at age 14 and continued using it through high school. She stopped taking it regularly when she started college.

“I feel like people think it’s this magic drug,” she said. “But it doesn’t make you smart.”

Although she occasionally gives Adderall out to friends in need during exams and other stressful academic times, Kate says that she doesn’t advertise that she has a prescription. Other students have offered her $5 a pill during finals week. David pays $20 for 120 milligrams of Adderall, which he buys from another student with a prescription. Karen follows a similar routine.

David, Karen and Kate do not think that recreational use of Adderall is a problem on the SMU campus. A study done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that marijuana is still the most preferred illicit drug among students. However, experts say prescription drug use is growing in popularity.

“The primary hidden danger of abusing Adderall, or any stimulant, is it’s high potential for addiction,” Menzel said. “I think this is something that is overlooked and underestimated by many individuals.”

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