Use and Abuse
BY BRANDAN BLOM // DEC. 6, 2012 //
With the end of the semester near, Curry students will be spending a lot of time writing papers and studying for final exams. Some will undoubtedly also abuse prescription medication.
From Curry to the University of California, students are taking what has become known as the “study drug.” Adderall, as it’s officially known, is a medication that’s often prescribed to people with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to help them focus mentally. However, students who don’t actually need the drug are buying or obtaining pills from friends with prescriptions to study
longer and harder—risking their health and well-being in the process.
No statistical evidence exists concerning Adderall abuse on campus, and it’s unclear how many students at Curry have a legal Adderall prescription. Approximately 20 percent of first-year students at the college were admitted through the PAL program, which provides academic services to students with ADD, ADHD and/or dyslexia. But there’s little question, at least anecdotally, that Adderall abuse is happening on campus.
“Adderall helps to stay focused,” said Mike Benedetto, a junior communication major who is prescribed Adderall for his ADD. “It helps me stay awake and stay focused on the work I have to finish. Lots of people take it when they don’t need it because they think it will make them smarter. I used to give it out to friends who said they needed it.”
Of course, the drug doesn’t actually make users smarter, only more focused. “If the ambition to write a paper isn’t there,” Benedetto explained, “taking Adderall won’t give you the ambition.”
According to media reports, Adderall abuse is a national problem. And it’s not just at colleges. The New York Times recently reported that high school students without prescriptions for Adderall are taking the medication in an effort to earn better grades and win acceptance into top colleges and universities. Among the most high-performing high schools in the country, as many of 40 percent of students have tried Adderall, the Times reported.
At the college level, nearly 6.5 percent of full-time students have used Adderall without having a prescription, according to a 2009 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, many students simply fake medical symptoms, such as an inability to focus, to win a prescription of their own.
Jeffrey Nunn, a junior communication major, said he used to take Adderall without a prescription “to stay up all night to study. It makes you feel focused, or sometimes it makes you want to do something active like run around,” he said. “Other times, it makes you not want to do anything at all.”
However, the medication is “like a scapegoat, or a crutch. It makes you think that you can think better.”
Worse yet, it carries potential health risks. Adderall can cause elevated heart rate, high body temperature, a lack of appetite, and disrupt sleep. It is also highly addictive.
According to Emilie Clucas, coordinator of substance abuse and prevention, students are largely unaware of the risks. For example, some students take it to stay energized while drinking and partying. However, mixing an amphetamine with alcohol carries serious health risks, and will leave users feeling down and depressed the next morning, she said.
The student group R.A.G.E. is sponsoring a trivia event—during the late-night pancake breakfast, Monday, Dec. 10, at 10 p.m. in the Student Center—about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
“We are hoping students who go to the late-night breakfast will hear the messages that are being sent,” Clucas said, “and learn about all the negative effects these drugs have on your body.”