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Adderall Abuse

the ‘study-drug’ epidemic sweeping schools

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Adderall Abuse

White pills (tablets) background. Medicine objects.

White pills (tablets) background. Medicine objects.

Gordya

White pills (tablets) background. Medicine objects.

Gordya

Gordya

White pills (tablets) background. Medicine objects.

Anna Constantino, Executive Editor-in-Chief

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The life of every high school student is defined by a similar routine: rising at the crack of dawn, trudging through the day fueled on coffee and five hours of sleep, spending countless hours doing homework, and repeating the process over. But is this common phenomenon really a cliché? Many would say it’s an exaggeration; Corona del Mar High School students may beg to differ.

We live in a community and society that places an immense amount of pressure on students to get high testing scores and maintain a perfect GPA, all while balancing extracurricular activities and sports. This common goal, not surprisingly, comes at a cost. Students often struggle to find enough time, energy, and motivation to get everything done, and often, this juggling act results in students resorting to extra aids to help performance. For some, this might be taking daytime naps to catch up on sleep, or chugging a five-hour energy to keep their eyes open. For others, help may come in the form of a little round pill: Adderall.

WebMD classifies Adderall as a stimulant that is commonly used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), composed of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. There are plenty of similar stimulants used to treat this disorder, such as Ritalin, Dexedrine, Focalin, Vyvanse, Mydayis, and more. Adderall and similar medications are generally taken to improve the ability to pay attention and stay focused, as well as control behavioral and organizational issues. In rarer cases, the drug is also used to treat narcolepsy, helping those who suffer from the sleeping disorder stay awake throughout the day.

According to CRC Health, ADHD affects approximately eight to ten percent of children and teens, being one of the most common childhood disorders. The disorder is characterized by hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity, with symptoms and behaviors differing from mild to severe. In regards to the disorder, an anonymous student stated, “Many people, adults and children, have ADHD. It really does affect a person’s day to day life. It may take people longer to do certain tasks or make a person attempt to do numerous different tasks at once.”

Adderall works by stimulating the central nervous system, increasing the availability of norepinephrine and dopamine to speed up brain activity, as explained by Healthline. For those who have ADHD, taking the drug creates a chemical balance in their brain, allowing them to be alert, productive, and calm. For those who don’t have ADHD–they simply may be fooling themselves.

The Adderall craze is particularly popular with students, as many feel the need to take the drug to cram for big tests, pull all-nighters, or do well on standardized testing. According to an anonymous survey of Corona del Mar High students, 59 percent of students know someone that takes Adderall or similar drugs for purposes other than ADHD or other disorders.

The accessibility of Adderall and similar drugs is much more prevalent than many might believe. 53 percent of CdM students claim they know where they can find or purchase Adderall if interested. Although abuse is common in all age groups, college students and young adults are the most likely to take the drug. According to a Huffington Post article by Dr. Ronald Ricker and Dr. Venus Nicolino, approximately 20-30 percent of college students abuse Adderall regularly, and overall abuse in the past few years has increased by 200 percent.

Adderall is often disregarded as being dangerous or potentially harmful to one’s health, but there are prominent side effects of abusing the stimulant. Common effects include loss of appetite, convulsions, paranoia, nausea, and even depression. In extreme cases, those who snort Adderall in attempt to gain quicker effects will end up with deteriorated lining of the nasal cavities.

In addition to these physical effects, plenty of negative societal consequences of this trend exist. The abuse of this medication creates a stigma surrounding those who have ADHD and the general use of prescribed Adderall.

Many tend to make false claims that those who take prescribed Adderall on a daily basis have an unfair advantage over those who don’t. This mindset is especially popular in regards to timed standardized testing, in which students who are diagnosed with ADHD can receive more time to complete their test. People often criticize these students, saying that their advantage is unfair, and that ‘anybody could claim to have ADHD’ just to receive the extra time. This is untrue, as these students are required to apply and provide extensive documentation to receive testing accommodations.

In extreme ideologies, some claim that ADHD is an illegitimate disorder, and say that technically, everyone suffers from this type of deficiency in attention and focus at times–which is blatantly false. ADHD is characterized by a deficiency in specific neurotransmitters in the brain, causing inattention and irritability.

It also seems that many are unaware that the purpose of Adderall is to level the playing field–not place those who must take it above. This is one of the most common misconceptions regarding the use of Adderall, and it is the reason so many students abuse it. People believe that without ADHD, Adderall still greatly enhances performance, allowing them to write a thousand-word paper in one hour, or cram ten chapters before the final. Contrary to this popular belief, studies have shown that for the most part, Adderall simply creates a placebo effect.

According to an article on Tonic, “A review of 40 studies found that in more than half of the research, adults without ADHD who took stimulants didn’t see any cognitive improvements.”

While this study was conducted with adults, the effects on the teenage brain are likely to be similar. In the same Tonic article, director of UCLA Medicine Karen Miotto stated, “Research has shown that the placebo effect of ADHD drugs is quite large, so you feel more focused because you tell yourself that’s supposed to be the effect.”

It is true that using Adderall will have the typical physical effects of a stimulant in anybody’s body, regardless of whether or not they have ADHD. The ability to pay attention, to be more productive, and to stay awake is more or less, all in the mind.

The rules of society place an immense amount of pressure on students to achieve and succeed in academics. There are many healthy and safe alternatives to managing testing stress or tackling tough workloads besides abusing medication. Often, getting good sleep each night or taking naps during the day can help ease tension and allow students to be more alert. Additionally, there are resources on campus such as a school psychologist, One Recovery in the Sea King Connection room, and counselors that provide free assistance and support in managing stress and addictions.

 

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