Rx for Success

BY CARISSA MILLER
Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 18, 2005

When coffee and Red Bull aren’t enough to stay awake during those long hours of studying, many students say they are tempted to turn to prescription drugs like Adderall, a stimulant that enables its users to go without sleep for extended periods of time.

Chelsea Trull
Chelsea Trull
A number of students use "study drugs" to help them stay up late or be more alert while studying for finals. (Photo illustration by Amy Drumm/Daily)

However, for some students, the use of Adderall is not limited to the two-week finals period. Instead, these individuals use the drug year-round to manage their workload and study for exams.

One such student, an LSA freshman who wished to remain anonymous, said she began using Adderall in high school after a friend who was prescribed it offered her the drug during a study session. But since entering college, she said her usage has increased, and she considers herself very dependent on the drug. She said she normally takes 20 to 30 milligrams every 12 hours during periods of use.

Part of the dependency stems from the overwhelming amount of homework she needs to grapple with during the semester.

“Although I didn’t really have problems concentrating, I found it took me a lot longer to study than other people,” she said. “Without Adderall, I can’t sit down and study for as long as I can when I’m on it.”

The student added that she now considers her dependency on Adderall to be more psychological than physical. Specifically, she said she feels that if she stopped using Adderall, her motivation would decrease and it would be harder for her to study.

“There was a time when I took so much that I was (awake) for two days and then I ran out. I took my exam and did poorly because I was so tired, “ she said. “I thought then it was kind of a problem and I sometimes worry because it is really addictive. But I never thought about getting help because so many other people are doing it too. I don’t feel abnormal.”

She said that she feels Adderall is fairly widely accepted by the student body and that even those individuals prescribed to the drug for medical purposes — such as her roommate, who provides her with the drug — rarely criticize users who aren’t prescribed.

“They get why you want to take it because they know it helps,” she said.

Although she has experienced numerous side effects from taking Adderall — like lack of sleep, irritability, headaches, loss of appetite, and antisocial feelings — these effects are not enough to make her to stop using the drug.

“What it does for me is worth it,” she said, adding that she will most likely continue using Adderall throughout college.

But for other students, such as Art and Design sophomore Kara, the side effects she experienced from taking Adderall outweighed the drug’s benefits.

“I lost weight and was always wide awake. Taking the pills made it very hard for me to sleep and I would often have to take more the next day to make up for the sleep I had lost,” Kara said. “I became compulsive about whatever I was doing and usually experienced depressed feelings coming down off (of Adderall).”

Kara said that although she felt more motivated, more creative and more responsive when taking Adderall, she eventually stopped taking it because it no longer made her feel well.

“I get more sleep now, and I don’t freak out about things as much. I’m less critical of myself,” she said, adding that her grades are about the same after she quit.

Unlike many other students, Kara said her Adderall use decreased when she came to college.

“I really would only use them towards final times, whereas in high school I was taking them almost everyday (of) my junior year,” Kara said. “Sometimes I would take time released (doses) which would last all day.”

“(In high school), my friends always had prescriptions and they would either share them or let me buy them from them.  Some people wouldn’t even use their prescriptions — they would just sell all of their pills,” she said. “ I know one kid who didn’t even work and it was his sole income.”

Kara agreed that Adderall use seems pretty accepted at the University.

“My friends, at least, aren’t very judgmental about drug use,” she said. “I don’t really think of it as cheating or anything. It’s kind of sad, though, because I heard it may get taken off the market due to its misuse, which is unfortunate to the kids who really do need it.”

A recent study conducted by the University’s Substance Abuse Research Center and the Harvard School of Public Health reported that 7 percent of college students have used prescription stimulants — such as Ritalin, Dexedrine and Adderall — for non-medical purposes.

The study found that campuses with the highest rates of non-medical use of prescription stimulants have competitive admissions criteria and high rates of binge drinking.

Students with GPAs of a B or lower were two times more likely to engage in non-medical use than those earning a higher GPA, the study reported.