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Adderall: A Problem or a Problem-Solver?

By Morgan Culp

Homework has been piling up all week. You have two midterms you have put off studying for, and a paper due at 11:59 p.m. You just can’t seem to focus, and you get distracted so easily. What would you do? Find a friend who will help you out and slip you one of her magic pills that everyone has been talking about? It’s just the one time. After this, you’re going to finally get yourself organized and not need it again, right?

Forty-eight percent of over 200 University of Tampa students surveyed on Instagram know someone who has abused Adderall. According to some UT students, Adderall is taken just as often as alcohol and marijuana are used among college students.

“I’ve been sober for five years now. I became a mom, and turned my life around,” said Allie Couture, 33-year-old St. Leo University student. “Now I’m in the field, working in rehab and studying to become a social worker. I want to help people achieve sobriety and maintain it.”

Couture was prescribed Adderall for depression at 16 years old, she had no idea the road it would lead her down.

“I wish the doctor would have prescribed me something else or given me a warning,” said Couture. “I had no idea it was a narcotic. I became completely physically dependent on this drug and it took four years and five different rehab facilities for me to realize that I don’t need this to live.”

Many people aren’t as lucky.

“He was only 25,” said Alex Jmean, senior entrepreneurship major at UT. “It started in high school and got even worse in college. His friends showed him how easy it was to go out and party all night, pop an Adderall when you get back home to study until morning, and get A’s on all your tests.”

Alex lost his brother to an Adderall addiction that had opened doors to many other types of drugs.

“I hate the term ‘gateway drug’ but it was all a downward spiral after Adderall,” said Jmean. “He went to the doctor with fake [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)] symptoms to get a prescription so he could feed his addiction legally. The doctors ran no tests and immediately granted him a prescription. After that, there was no stopping him.”

Adderall abuse is a national issue among many college campuses in the U.S. The National Center for Health Statistics nicknames it as the “study drug.” They also conducted a study that found that more than half of students with an Adderall or other ADHD drug prescription were asked to sell the medication to peers and friends. The results of this study may be applied to the UT community.

“I’ve never had to pay for one,” said an anonymous UT junior who prefers to go under the name Ava. “One of my best friends has a prescription and gives them out to us when we ask, I guess she doesn’t use them herself.”

Ava said she does not see a problem with students using Adderall recreationally. She said the drug helps her to focus on her schoolwork, and as long as she doesn’t “overdo it,” there’s no way she will become dependent.

In a survey of over 200 UT students, 78% said they believe Adderall abuse has become a problem. Of the students surveyed, those who have been diagnosed with ADHD only recall negative side-effects of taking Adderall – loss of appetite, sleep and a growing tolerance – while those who take the drug without a prescription said they reap the benefits of concentration, laser-focus, and good grades.

“When I got out of rehab, I attended so many funerals,” said a recovering alcoholic who prefers to go by the name Larry for anonymity. “Even though I was there with my own problems, I saw what Adderall did to people. Coming off of that drug was unbearable for so many of my friends.”

Larry explained how he saw that the hyperactivity that Adderall gave people left them empty, jittery, and mentally unstable when the drug was taken away. Larry remains good friends with one of the Adderall addicts he met in rehab who came clean, but still grieves for another friend lost to Adderall addiction straight out of rehab.  

“The molecular structure of Adderall is really similar to meth,” said Kim Pillsbury, certified drug and alcohol counselor. “I see students all time who minimize that Adderall is in fact a serious drug, and they pass it off as the same as caffeine – just like their regular cup of coffee.”

Pillsbury said college students who abuse Adderall mostly have the common idea that it will make them nocturnal and give them infinite energy. The sad reality that many students abusing this drug are not aware of is that it can kill.

“You don’t need a drug to pass your classes, you don’t need a drug to control your life,” Couture said. 

There are many healthy alternatives students can use to practice time-management and do well in school, according to Pillsbury. She said Adderall is not the answer. 

“Addiction comes in many forms and students in college are often most vulnerable to try anything to get them through the stress of university,” said Larry. “I just hope schools are doing their part in informing kids on how dangerous these common study drugs can be when abused.”

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