Students who misuse Adderall or similar drugs should find other ways of coping with academic work
While sitting in Clemons the other day, a friend of mine asked,“Do you have any Adderall?” I was perturbed because I knew that he has no diagnosed medical disorder, and I ignored his request. The moment, however, reminded me of how overmedicated our country is, and how reliant some are on prescription drugs.
Certain people legitimately require medications like Adderall, but studies show that such a population is very small. Only about 3 to 5 percent of children in the U.S. have attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactive disorder, the two most common conditions that require Adderall. But amphetamine prescriptions, primarily for Adderall, have increased dramatically since the 1990s. In 1996 American doctors wrote 1.3 million Adderall prescriptions. In 2010 they wrote more than 18 million. That number rises every year. Reports of ADD and ADHD are increasing too, with ADHD diagnoses rising 22 percent between 2003 and 2007. Either ADD and ADHD are affecting ever-higher numbers of people, or more people are being tested in order to become eligible for the Adderall prescription or other benefits, such as extra time on standardized tests. I am going to assume the latter. Because although people claim there is a connection between media and ADD, which would be a convincing argument for the former, I have encountered many more people who were tested so that they could use their “ADD” diagnoses in order to receive an Adderall prescription.
Some students who fail to game the medical system for an ADD diagnosis still manage to get their hands on the drug. According to the Suffolk Medical News Daily, recreational use of the drug is quite common, and 34 percent of college students admitted to using the drug in 2012. For those who really need the drug, Adderall just brings them to a more stable level. For those who do not need Adderall, the drug’s effects are very powerful and can augment focus and efficiency. This makes the drug incredibly appealing. It is not terribly difficult to be diagnosed with ADD either, as it is a fairly subjective process that can neither be confirmed nor disproved by laboratory tests. Most doctors ask their patients questions to test for ADD, and a positive diagnosis is based on the answers to these questions as well as other observations made in the office, meaning the diagnosis and decision of treatment method are particularly subjective. That is not to say doctors are often incorrect in their diagnoses, but an ADD diagnosis can arise from really any sort of hyperactive tendencies and so can be easily misdiagnosed.
Consider the hypothetical student, who tends to be overly energetic. That energy negatively affects her school work because she is often distracted by her desire to play sports, watch television or chat with friends. This energy also means she constantly wants to be in contact with friends, so she texts a lot during class, which prohibits her from sufficiently learning the material. Then she does poorly on the exams. This could be a problem of a student with ADD, but it also sounds like a problem every student faces on a daily basis. Many people fit the above description, yet we do not all need drugs to make ourselves calm and productive.
If a child is behaving hyperactively, which children often are, ADD can be a quick and easy diagnosis that leads to medication to end the child’s restless tendencies. But do we really need the medication? I believe some children require ADD to function properly, but many others are put on medications such as Adderall or Ritalin without any true need. We are even seeing an increasing number of kids who were never actually tested for ADD or ADHD, but who received the medication anyway.
It is wrong for people without ADD or ADHD to take Adderall. And if those with a disorder sell Adderall to their friends, they too are in the wrong. A student without a disorder taking Adderall is like an athlete taking a performance-enhancing steroid — it puts them at an unfair advantage. In addition, Adderall can have many serious negative consequences. It is an amphetamine like cocaine, so it accelerates the central nervous system and increases alertness, making the drug addictive and making the user more susceptible to nervousness, insomnia, depression, mood swings, irritability and nausea.
Adderall may enhance our abilities and help us perform better in school, but do we really need prescription drugs in order to succeed? Many believe we do. Statistics show that attention spans in children are decreasing, yet academic requirements are becoming more rigorous. We are ignoring the growing discrepancy between people’s capabilities and their obligations, and are turning to Adderall to close the gap.
Instead of using Adderall, students should try alternative methods of preparing their bodies and minds for the intense amount of school work they have. I am not going to recommend Red Bull or caffeine, because those can be addicting too. Instead I would like to suggest getting more sleep and using meditation to relax yourself and help you to focus. The misuse of Adderall on college campuses is rampant and students need to find other ways to succeed or else our generation will become a bunch of overmedicated addicts who will struggle to complete daily tasks without their dose of stimulant.
Meredith Berger is an Opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. Her column normally runs on Tuesdays.