By Charlotte Hoppen
Division 2, News Writing
1st Place, In-Depth Feature
It’s ten at night and you just got home from your time consuming extra-curricular activity. You haven’t even opened your backpack, which is filled with an hour of homework for each subject.
You know there’s a long night ahead of you, filled with worksheets, labs and summaries of that book you didn’t read. Knowing that you may collapse and not be able to finish it all, you decide to break out your Adderall. Just one pill later, you’re flying through your work effortlessly, all thanks to this wonder drug.
The prescription drug Adderall is used to help treat Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Narcolepsy.
According to Dr. Marty Levinson, a general pediatrician at Medical Center Pediatrics, ADHD can interfere with not only academic performances, but also the social lives of students. Adderall is used to help treat some of the symptoms that come along with ADHD, which include distractibility, forgetfulness and impulsivity.
“Stimulants are generally the first-line treatment, not the sole treatment,” Levinson said. “Adderall is the name of one well-known stimulant. All of the stimulants are either amphetamines or methylphenidates.”
According to a Highlander survey, ten percent of Seaholm students currently have a prescription for Adderall. However, 29 percent of students admitted to taking Adderall in order to finish schoolwork and study or take a test.
One anonymous Seaholm student, whom in this article will be referred to as Michael Howard*, was diagnosed with ADHD in the third grade, which is when he received his prescription for Adderall. He typically takes it about once or twice a month.
“If you get the right amount and the right prescription and you use it appropriately I think it can be helpful,” Howard said.
Howard uses it to help him focus while studying for important tests. He claims that when he is on it, he can study for hours without being distracted.
Levinson said that like all stimulants, Adderall could come in short acting and longacting forms. The longest acting only lasts up to about 12 hours before the drug begins to wear off.
Although Howard can go to the pediatrician and get his prescription filled once per month, it typically takes about two days to be filled. When Howard needs his Adderall faster than that allotted time, he simply calls a friend with some extra pills.
“If I need it super quick I can text someone and say ‘hey I need some Adderall,’” Howard said.
Howard isn’t the only one who has bought Adderall off of someone else with a prescription. According to a Highlander survey, 18 percent of Seaholm students have bought it either in addition to their prescription or without a prescription. An additional nine percent said they received it from a friend without paying for it.
Howard also has occasionally given his Adderall to a friend when they need it. However, he claims this occurrence is rare.
“I’m not a drug dealer,” Howard said. “I’ve only done it twice for the same person.”
According to Levinson, taking Adderall when not prescribed a correct dosage can be very harmful to the person consuming the drug.
“The dosing of stimulants are extremely individual,” Levinson said. “Some people are very sensitive and some require higher dosing. That’s why you can have a grade school student taking the same dose as a high school offensive lineman, so it has to be tailored to each patient.”
When Howard gets his Adderall from a friend instead of his prescription, he purchases inside of his own milligram amount. He understands that Adderall can be addictive, but he doesn’t believe it can happen when it isn’t used frequently.
“I’d say that its probably not a good thing that people are doing it without a prescription because you can develop an addiction, but I don’t see anything too wrong with it if it’s a one time thing or if its an occasional study assistant,” Howard said.
Another anonymous Seaholm student, whom in this article will be referred to as Jim Calvin*, was diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed Adderall a month ago. He wished to remain anonymous because he didn’t want people contacting him to buy his pills. Calvin takes Adderall once or twice a day. After taking Adderall, he claims his performance in school and work habits have progressed since he started taking it therapeutically.
“When you’re on it, you just do better at everything,” Calvin said. “It’s going to help them out in school, so why not?”
Much like Howard, Calvin has also taken Adderall through a friend. Before he had his prescription, he would occasionally buy or be given a few pills for when he needed it. However, Calvin doesn’t think students view Adderall as something necessarily addictive.
“Without a prescription, I think people will take it and not view it as a drug, but as a study helper,” Calvin said. “From the social perception side I think that is kind of a problem.”
Calvin believes that students may become dependent to an extent on Adderall due to the way one can perform while on it. The extreme ability to focus and get work done allows students to study for hours. Calvin admitted that he isn’t aware of any health precautions that come along with taking Adderall.
“I don’t know about physical addictiveness, but I can definitely see how someone would never want to be off of it,” Calvin said.
Another Seaholm student, who in this article will be referred to as Joe Davis*, doesn’t have a prescription for Adderall, but he uses it occasionally in order to finish schoolwork.
When Davis needs to obtain the Adderall, he calls a friend and is either given it as a favor or buys it for usually ten dollars per pill. Davis is unaware of what his dosage for the drug should be.
“If you don’t have a prescription, you’re just guessing,” Davis said. “You just take what you can get.”
Davis only takes Adderall when he is in what he calls an “emergency situation”. For example, he says pulling allnighters or staying up late in order to finish lots of notes.
“If it’s late at night and you have a lot of work to do then it just makes sense because it’ll keep you up and make you get your work done more efficiently,” Davis said. “If I know there is no way for me to get my stuff done without drugging myself out to just be a robot then I’ll take it, but that situation rarely happens.”
When Davis is on Adderall, he claims the ability to focus for immense amounts of time outweighs the small side effects he feels later on. Headaches, chills and a bit of a curbed appetite are included, but he said they aren’t a deterrent to taking it.
“You have a conscious mind where you’re thinking normally,” Davis said, “but your body is moving way faster and way more efficiently.”
However, Levinson said that many patients might refuse to take Adderall or abuse the use due to the side effects. Among these is the curbed appetite.
“The most common side effect by far is to trick you into not feeling hungry,” Levinson said. “This can be an intolerable side effect, but also another reason for people to use the drug for the wrong reason. Most patients will initially lose weight when they are treated until they learn to eat around the medicine.”
According to Davis, people with prescriptions who sell their Adderall make a decent profit, especially during the time of finals. They may get their full prescription, set a few pills aside and later on sell them when the need is high.
When Davis was younger, he was diagnosed with a mild case of ADHD. However, he never received a prescription for Adderall due to the dependency he thought would be developed later on.
“I can’t lie and say Adderall hasn’t bailed me out of situations, because it has,” Davis said, “but I would never use it regularly because eventually your brain will be fried and you will not be able to do any work without it.”
Levinson believes that Adderall may not only be used in order to help students get work done or study, but also recreationally for getting a quick high.
“Another abuse potential is diverting the drug to recreational use, for example crushing it and snorting it to get a buzz,” Levinson said. “This is why these drugs are controlled substances.”
However, Davis believes that at the end of the day, grades and academic pressures are mainly what pushes students to take Adderall without a prescription.
“I don’t think Adderall would be a thing if grades weren’t as important in society,” Davis said. “I would say its 100 percent driven by the motivation to get your grades better and driven also by the lack of a safety net.”
Levinson has also seen instances where students want a prescription for Adderall solely to gain an academic advantage over others. He also said that after a student begins relying on Adderall, they psychologically may not be able to do so without the drug in the future when they study for tests.
“I have many patients, high school and college who request Adderall for when they are studying for finals or LSAT’s only, claiming they do okay for the routine classwork,” Levinson said. “These students do not have ADHD. They are looking for an unfair advantage over their peers and they should not be treated.”
According to Levinson, who read the interviews before this article was published, when a student only uses Adderall rarely, the drug isn’t necessarily needed.
“The interviews represent the classical misuse of the stimulant medications,” Levinson said. “Although I agree that students are responding to pressure for better grades, this is not the use for which these medications are intended. If “as needed” is once or twice a month, it is not needed.”
According to a Highlander survey, 36 percent of Seaholm students would highly consider getting a prescription for Adderall before they head off to college. College can be a high-pressure place, and Adderall may give students a sense of security when they need to get lots of work done.
Levinson recognized the abuse of Adderall in college in order for students to stay up later and get their work done.
“Some kids have interference with sleep and they learn that there is a time beyond which they won’t take the drug because they know it will cause problems falling asleep,” Levinson. “This is one of the reasons college students abuse these drugs, because they can stay up longer to study.”
Davis believes that students feel a need to take prescription drugs like Adderall in order to live up to high expectations set for them.
“Can you really blame kids for following the track that adults set up for them? Everyone has to play the game,” Davis said.
*These are not the actual names of the anonymous sources. These names have been randomly assigned in order to protect their identities.