Drugs prescribed for attention deficient disorder (ADD) and attention deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are being abused at alarming rates by college students.
These drugs, such as Ritalin and Adderall, give students the ability to focus for long periods of time and enhance concentration, while giving them energy to stay awake all night.
Jamie*, a junior at Missouri Western, says the drug is used by many of her friends to complete marathon study sessions during finals.
â€œI donâ€™t know anyone who uses it all the time to study,â€ Jamie said, â€œMost people just take Adderall for a big test or finals.â€
In a recent survey by Bates College, 24 percent of college students have tried amphetamine compounds, such as Ritalin or Adderall, as a study aid.
Research done by the National Institute of Drug Abuse shows the more competitive the college, the higher the incidence of stimulant use.
The findings of the April 2006 survey shows 5.9% use rates among the more competitive schools, compared to 1.3% use rates among less competitive schools.
Kelli Owen, a freshman at Missouri Western, doesnâ€™t see the abuse of Adderall or other stimulants becoming a problem at Missouri Western.
â€œI donâ€™t know anyone who uses it,â€ Owen said, â€œIf I did, I would be oblivious to it. I would just think they were really focused on school.â€
Stimulant ADD drugs might be popular as study aids, but they are also gaining popularity as a party drug.
Recreationally, the drugs are used as a stimulant, producing a high similar to cocaine.
The pills are usually crushed or snorted several at a time, which makes users more susceptible to overdose.
Brandon*, a student at Missouri Western, has used the drug for academic, as well as recreational purposes.
â€œYou become very active and introspective [on Adderall],â€ he said, â€œYour mind is completely occupied with whatever youâ€™re doing, even just watching television.â€
â€œIt makes you very focused, but if something disrupts your attention, you can easily go back to what you were doing.â€
Adderall stimulates the central nervous system by increasing the flow of certain chemicals which help the brain send signals between nerve cells. When the drug is taken by someone who has been diagnosed with an attention deficient disorder, it restores the ability to focus and pay attention. When taken by those prescribed, doctors say it is completely safe; however, those who are not prescribed can have health risks.
The abuse of Adderall can cause hyperactivity, paranoia and delusion, while putting them at risk for heart attacks and strokes. The drug can also cause non-prescribed users to crash as the drug wears off, forming addictions to stave away exhaustion.
Side effects of the abuse of Adderall also include dehydration, hot flashes, stomach pains, nausea, heavy sweating, headaches and involuntary movement.
The manufacturer of Adderall, Shire Pharmaceuticals Group, claims medical research has shown the drug has no potential for addiction. However, when taken with other drugs, or over the recommended dosage, problems can occur, says a spokesperson for the company.
â€œI donâ€™t think [abusing Adderall] is right, but people are going to do it anyway to get better grades,â€ Owen said.
*indicates names have beenÂ changed to protect the identity of the student.