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The Adderall Generation: Getting High to Get Ahead


It’s no secret that colleges have long been the bastions of illegal and illicit drug use, and that’s probably as true today as it ever was. But in today’s society of instant gratification many college students that are straining under the pressures of skyrocketing tuitions and unprecedented expectations choose to ease their burden through occasional use of legitimate prescription medications. A favorite has emerged over the last several years, a drug that has single-handedly added a whole new meaning to the phrase “higher” education.

Its name is Adderall.

Adderall was originally formulated to help treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) but today it’s in wide use among young adults trying to push the envelope. Even though Adderall is classified as a neurostimulant, it has a calming effect very different from what you would expect from a stimulant. It’s not known exactly how the calming effect is produced but the medication is known to affect the chemicals in the brain affording the subject greater focus and concentration.

Calms the body, focuses the mind and enhances the concentration of the user – exactly what ADHD patients need and college students want. How widespread its off-label use is across college campuses is unknown for obvious reasons, but anecdotally it’s reported as very, common on every major campus in America – and it isn’t hard to figure out why. The drug seems perfectly suited for long nights of last-minute cramming and indeed, the results seem impressive on the surface. So impressive in fact that a growing number of reports suggest a significant percentage of college professors and their staffs are utilizing the drug as well.

But does it really work? The overwhelming consensus among users is an enthusiastic yes – it works exactly as advertised. Students report much higher productivity and far better grades, all attributed to the drug’s ability to heighten learning and retention by sharpening the focus and concentration of the student. But at what cost? Enhanced learning and higher grades are all well and fine, but is there a price to pay and is it too high?

At its core Adderall is an amphetamine and therefore it’s very habit-forming and subject to a high potential for abuse, so much so that it’s listed as a Schedule II controlled substance that has very definite rules for being prescribed. It has some moderate side effects that can lead to fairly serious complications of their own, though most users claim not to take enough of the medication to cause concern. Still, it’s an extremely potent neurostimulant that no one is 100% sure how it works, so extreme caution is prudent and warranted.

The vast majority of college students taking Adderall aren’t the patient it was prescribed for; it’s that cheap and easy to get. Despite rigid rules regarding prescriptions they are typically filled in quantities of thirty, sixty or ninety pills, and since most users only take a few pills a month, one legitimate prescription can serve as the source for dozens of students and faculty alike.
We all know that using prescription medications can quickly lead to prescription drug addiction if the user takes more of it more frequently than what was indicated.

Taken in moderation it’s unlikely we as a society would see any adverse effects from its off-label use, but given the drug’s propensity for abuse it’s probably only a matter of time until we see a spike in Adderall-related complications in a story paralleling that of steroids in professional sports.

A wonder drug, too good to be true or a devil in disguise? Welcome to 21st century academia.

This post was written by Alicia Witt. Thank you for your contribution Alicia.

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