The Viability of ADHD Drugs on College Campuses
Those looking for something to put a little pep in their step have been turning to one, unconventional method since the early 20th century. A culture has formed around a small assortment of pills that provide instant energy, hyperfocus and the hormone-fueled headspace to get things done.
This is especially prevalent on college campuses. When coffee and Red Bull aren’t enough, students may turn to unprescribed—or loosely prescribed—amphetamines or methylphenidates, also called “study drugs,” to aid in their academic success. Some of these include Focalin™, Concerta™, Dexedrine™, Vyvanse™, Ritalin™ and the king of kings: Adderall™.
Adderall™ has a similar makeup to another Schedule II drug, methamphetamine. Drugs that fall under this classification may lead to severe dependency and addiction. Individuals who use study drugs when they aren’t prescribed them appear normal, while meth abusers are completely washed out and plagued with bloody or puss-filled sores (even though it’s virtually the same substance). Adderall™ and meth stimulate the body’s nervous system in a similar way—increasing neurotransmitters like dopamine and epinephrine.
“If other people are using Adderall™ and [are] doing better… good for them I guess,” said Valentina Loaiza, a freshman at Cornell University.
Cornell University has a low reported percentage of Adderall™ usage compared to other schools with the same standing. According to The Ranch of Dove Tree, 35 percent of 300 students said they used illegal drugs during the time they attended Yale as of 2016.
In the 2013 Cornell PULSE survey, one question asked the following: “How frequently have you used a prescription stimulant… to enhance your academic performance… without having your own prescription for the medication?” Approximately 3% of students who answered the survey said they had used Adderall™ at least once that year. Despite Cornell’s Ivy league status, the numbers were quite low. They were so low, in fact, that in the 2017 Cornell PULSE Survey, the question was never asked—nor was it asked in the 2015 survey.
“The standard is much higher so we’re expected to perform better,” said Ashley Ahmed, also a freshman at Cornell.
According to a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, one in five students at Ivy League Universities are likely to misuse ADHD medication but this differs with private institutions that aren’t Ivy League.
“I jammed [the paper] out in eight hours, it was the fastest eight hours of my life,” said Cody, a freshman at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, after he purchased and used Adderall™ illegally.
Cody later expressed that his previous experience with drugs like marijuana and LSD inclined him to try Adderall™.
A prescribed dose of Adderall™ for adults, which can range from five to thirty milligrams, has an array of euphoric effects—many of which are similar to those of methamphetamine and cocaine. According to The Cabin, Adderall™ “can create feelings of euphoria and increased alertness and energy.” Although meth is more potent, Adderall™ is just as addictive. If the stimulant is snorted or injected, the user’s chances of becoming addicted increases greatly.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health released a study in 2009 that displayed the likelihood of full-time college students to wrongfully use ADHD medication. Full-time college students at private universities were twice as likely to have taken study drugs in order to benefit themselves academically.
The punishments for those who possess Adderall™ without a prescription are harsher than those with possession of marijuana. In New York State, individuals who are caught in possession of under 25 grams of marijuana face no jail time but if someone is caught with unprescribed Adderall may face up to a year in prison and/or up to $1,000 in fines. According to RxList, Adderall comes in bottles of 100 capsules. In the popular Adderall™ XR, one orange-orange capsule contains 20 mg. If an individual has possession of 100 capsules, each containing 20 mg, that individual can sell each capsule for around $10—that’s $1,000 in earnings. An individual who’s placed under arrest may not be able to buy that time back, but they can easily make enough money off of one bottle to put a dent in the maximum fine.
For a highly-addictive drug, Adderall™ is easily obtainable. Some websites like Thought Catalog have even detailed the steps an individual can take to have Adderall™ prescribed to them without having ADHD. According to a study by Johns Hopkins, between 2006 and 2011, Adderall misuse rose 67 percent in the U.S. Both men and women, between the ages of 18-25 hospitalized “made up 60 percent of those using Adderall™ for nonmedical reasons.”
However, Adderall™ misuse can be difficult to quantify for a variety of reasons. Much of the research conducted to determine the amount of Adderall™ in the hands of college students is based on surveys—surveys that can be easily falsified and include an insignificant number of participants. This isn’t to say that the illegal usage of ADHD medication isn’t prescribed, bought, sold and used illegally.
James Baratta is a first-year Journalism major who snorted Pixy Stix as a child. You can reach them at [email protected].