Adderall, study drugs popular among students despite side effects

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A 2012 study published in the Journal of American College Health shows that two-thirds of college students are offered Adderall by their senior year. Of that group, half are saying yes to the drug. For David, whose name has been changed for privacy, he doesn't know much about what he's being offered- other than it works.

"To be honest, I'm not even sure what dosage I take now," admitted David. "It's just one little orange pill, and I know it's some slow release low dosage meant to manage ADHD, and it just so happens to also keep the rest of us up."

David is like other college students who illegally use the prescription drug solely to concentrate or stay awake through the night in order to study or complete assignments. This trend is one reason one Pine Belt pediatrician makes his patients aware of the drug's demand.

"I tell my college students… 'Do not tell people that you take medicine for ADHD because they will steal it'," said Dr. Ronald Kent.

Kent said he understands students juggle school, work and extracurricular life, but when they get in a bind, he said they are turning to drugs like Adderall.

"We do our best to keep Adderall off the college campuses," said Kent. "We try to use other medicines, it's just that the stimulants are better than anything else."

Adderall is a schedule two controlled substance, falling into the category of psycho stimulants with an amphetamine property.

"It's a schedule two drug that's the same as cocaine, heroin," explained Pine Grove clinical therapist Marita Harris. "It's in that schedule because it's highly addictive."

Harris said the danger in the drug is found when people are taking others' prescriptions, which were tailored specifically for that person's needs. As a result, abusers of the drug could experience a number of side effects, including agitation, confusion and sleeplessness.

But despite these negative effects, students are still using this study drug because they say it works.

"Studies have shown that stimulants will help anybody learn, if anybody takes it," said Kent. "But it's kind of like caffeine; it really just wakes you up... But for the people with ADHD, it's a miracle."

Dr. Kent said that 5 mg of Ritalin is equal to about three cups of coffee, but David said he would rather skip the negative side effects of coffee and instead take the risk of using a study drug.

"One Adderall of a significant dosage will essentially do what having to sip on seven or eight cups of coffee will do without the jitters or without the pee breaks," said David.

Dr. Kent says about 10 percent of his patients are college students, and the idea that getting diagnosed with ADHD is an easy way to legally obtain Adderall, is simply not true.

"If you're looking for a quick type thing, you won't come here because it takes about four or five visits, and it takes a good bit of money to get a diagnosis here," said Kent.

When David was asked why he resorts to using study drugs as opposed to studying ahead of time, he said: "We work hard all semester long. So do people in retail, and then Christmas comes."

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