Among the whispers about midterms, paper deadlines and who’s going out at night, one topic sneaks its way into countless conversations in the supposedly “silent” graduate library — Adderall, a prescription drug intended to help people with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and similar disorders concentrate. But with papers to write, tests to ace and bars to frequent, many University students sans ADHD couldn’t manage without the help of this friendly and easily available pill. Or at least that’s what many think.
Adderall increases the flow of neurotransmitters in the brain, strengthening a person’s ability to concentrate for extended periods of time. For those diagnosed with ADHD, Adderall can relieve symptoms and help to perform daily activities. But many undiagnosed students wrongly assume that Adderall is a safe and innocuous cure-all for poor study habits.
And though pulling an all-nighter without the distraction of snacks and TV shows may boost a student’s GPA, the long-term consequences may outweigh the short-term benefits. Study-hungry students should consider both the physical and mental consequences of taking this drug before popping their first 20mg dose.
I have never tried Adderall. I’ve been tempted, but the cons continually seem to outweigh the pros. I have read all of the warnings, heard all of the praise and ultimately decided the drug isn’t for me. But my lack of firsthand experience doesn’t discredit my opinions, so hear me out.
While the medical literature on Adderall lists the normal litany of possible side effects (difficulty sleeping, dizziness, dry mouth, loss of appetite, nausea, nervousness, restlessness, etc.), these are admittedly infrequent and not an overriding concern. If anything, side effects such as loss of appetite only encourage students whose favorite study snacks include cheesy bread from Pizza House and colliders from Rod’s.
I am more fearful of the psychological impact associated with Adderall — on those who use it and believe that success in school might be impossible without it, and on non-users who may harbor resentment over the unfair advantage it could provide. This advantage could pressure students who feel their GPAs are at risk due to the enhanced abilities of classmates who use the drug. At this point, the stakes have been raised, and it’s only a matter of time before students feel forced to try Adderall simply to keep up with over-stimulated peers. After all, how could they compete with those able to study for hours on end without sneaking a single snack break or Facebook check?
Let’s first state the obvious — Adderall is not intended for recreational use. But when used by studiers to get an extra boost, the drug can give undiagnosed users an undeserved leg up. In the same way that steroids give athletes unfair advantages in sports, Adderall does so for school. We all know how competitive Wolverines can be both on the field and in the classroom, and the Adderall obsession may skew the playing field.
Dispensing prescription drugs is illegal, yet the buying and selling of Adderall has become so commonplace that students with true prescriptions hardly think twice when sharing (or selling) their beloved study buddy with an eager classmate. Just today, one of my classmates boasted about her newfound source of income as a study-style drug dealer.
Thanks for the offer, but from one scattered brain to another, taking something that makes the arduous task of studying more palatable doesn’t make me want to risk losing confidence in the study habits that have gotten me this far. If I did choose to take it, I might begin to underestimate my natural abilities and become reliant on the drug — and that scares me. I know many users only diagnose themselves as Adderall-needy during midterms or final exams, but as with many drugs, dependency is a related concern. The problem starts when reliance sets in — and it very easily can.
Despite my reservations, it’s undeniable that the Adderall epidemic is in full force. Even my pediatrician was shocked (though relieved) to hear I had never tried it. It worries me that when I told a friend I was writing an article about this issue, he was quick and unashamed to say that he would read it but it definitely wouldn’t change his mind or study habits. But in the spirit of at least slowing the epidemic, I challenge all the self-prescribed Adderall addicts out there to set your pills aside and settle down in a quiet room with a cup of your favorite coffee. If you trust yourselves as much as you trust an unprescribed dosage, you might be surprised at the results you get.
Leah Potkin can be reached at email@example.com.