Adderall Abuse Common Among Phillips Students

Overwhelmed with work one night, one Upper turned to an un-prescribed Adderall pill to increase his concentration, hasten his mental-processing, and ward off sleep. “While I am personally against the use of Adderall and hate myself for using it when I do, I can’t deny that it has fantastic effects on work habits and productivity,” said the Upper, who wished to remain anonymous. “I would caution anyone from taking it, but it’s a godsend when you’re in trouble for the next day,” he continued. Schools everywhere have observed a steep increase in the use of “study drugs.” Many students have embraced medicines such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta – drugs prescribed to students diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) – as convenient alternatives to other stimulants. Adderall is classified as a schedule two narcotic, and possession of the drug without a prescription can lead to misdemeanor charges. But despite this, many Andover students have turned to the drug. Most users receive the drugs for free, or at a nominal fee of two to five dollars, from ADD-diagnosed students. This was how another Phillips Academy student, also speaking on a condition of anonymity, first obtained the drug, which, at first, she used for purely academic purposes – to cram for finals and to finish papers. But after her first use, she began to take an increasingly relaxed approach to the drug, and now she finds herself using it recreationally. “There is the occasional weekend when you are bored and want to get high off an easily-accessible drug that is hard to get you in trouble,” she said. Her experience is indicative of the trend among high school and college students to abuse prescription stimulants. Though Adderall, Concerta, and Dexedrine are usually ingested as study drugs by students trying to finish work under tight deadlines, these same drugs have grown increasingly popular for recreational purposes, and some students haven taken to snorting them in their powdered form. An anonymous Lower began snorting un-prescribed Ritalin Junior year with a friend to have fun on weekends. “[I use it] to stay up, and it’s only if I’m really bored that I use it purely to ‘get high’… but I always do anyway because I do [it] a lot,” the Lower said. These drugs act as “uppers,” enhancing the user’s mood, and making him more gregarious. But the prescription medications are considered much safer than other illegal stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine. When ingested, the medicine is released slowly over a long period of time. As a result, these drugs do not simulate the high soaring and sudden crashing of cocaine. But the drugs do provoke psychological addiction. Even after using Adderall once, a student may lose faith in his capacity to work effectively late at night without the aid of these drugs. As with all seeming “miracle” drugs, Adderall comes with its downfalls. According to Andover’s Medical Director Dr. Richard Keller, side effects include sleeping disorders, diminished appetite and weight loss, poor growth, heart rhythm disturbances, nervousness, anxiety, emotional problems, and various neurological issues. People with an underlying heart condition, a predisposition to seizures, or psychological problems are particularly vulnerable to adverse reactions to these drugs. Additionally, these drugs also present significant risks if used in combination with other illicit drugs or alcohol, or if snorted on a regular basis. Yet for most users, the immediate benefits of the drugs – increased productivity, enhanced focus, and prolonged efficiency – outweigh the long-term health risks. One frequent user described the side affects of heavy use, saying, “My heart gets really fast and then [it feels] faint, then rushy; and I can’t eat; and I shake.” Other students report using the drug without any side affects. “I haven’t run into any problems… it has made me feel a little hyper, but nothing too bad,” an Upper commented. Another Upper portrayed the drugs in a positive light. “[Adderall] definitely helps me focus, especially when there are so many distractions around during finals week. I think I have done better on those exams where I have studied using a drug,” she said. Over the past decade un-prescribed use has risen along with the number of prescriptions. The number of medical problems and deaths attributed to the drugs has also increased. Between 1999 and 2003 there were 20 reported deaths and 12 strokes attributed to Adderall alone. In addition to the medical risks, abuse of prescription medications can carry legal consequences as well. Posession of adderall without a doctor’s permission can lead to a misdemeanor charge with consequences of a maximum $1000 fine and one year in jail.