Adderall Abuse Among College Students

Chronic use of Adderall significantly contributed to the death of Joseph Tanner Wray, a 20-year-old University of Tennessee Student. Taking Adderall in combination with caffeine caused Joseph to go into cardiac arrest. According to an article by Stephanie Desmon-Jhu, there are students taking Adderall for non-prescription purposes. Students are feeling increased pressures from the demands of college coursework. New Federal statistics from CCHR International show that the use of this drug has sky-rocketed during the past two decades. A study conducted by Bates College in Maryland found that one in three students had abused Adderall at some point.

Additionally, drug companies are profiting from increased Adderall sales more than ever. Dr. Allen Francis, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Duke University, points out that the prescription of Adderall to people diagnosed with ADHD is at an all-time high. An investigation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the rate of drug overdose deaths from Adderall has increased 600 percent between 2000 and 2015.

Many people advocate that using Adderall responsibly and as directed does not cause any adverse health effects. Let’s look at some more information that reveals how college students are abusing Adderall.

In today’s college landscape, more students than ever are using Adderall to stay up all night and cram for tests. Ramin Mojtabai, a professor of mental health at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, confirms this trend. Adderall is prescribed to people who suffer from ADHD but misuse among college students is a common occurrence.

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Mojtabai goes on to say that a significant portion of the students who take Adderall think that it will make them more intelligent and more capable of studying. This group needs to be educated about the adverse side-effects that could come from taking the drug.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the percentage of college aged students 18 to 25 who use Adderall is up from 600,000 in 1990 to 3.5 million by 2013. Additionally, more than half of students who are prescribed Adderall are pressured to sell it to other students. Simon Essig Aberg, author for the National Center for Health Research, says that “almost every student who abuses these drugs in college gets the drug from a friend or classmate with ADHD.” The increased prescriptions of Adderall and the illegal peer-to-peer distribution of it only serve to raise the number of students who abuse it. In an article from the Center of Addiction it is stated that “the number of students taking amphetamines for nonmedical reasons is continuing to rise. Students report that it is easy to get ADHD medication in college and studies have shown that the percentage of college students who report using ADHD stimulants for nonmedical reasons ranges from 25 to 35 percent.” It is very apparent that students are using Adderall now more than ever. However, they aren’t the only ones who have something to gain from the drug. There has been an increase in the sale and distribution of Adderall, and drug companies are the primary beneficiaries. Let’s explore that further.

Drug companies are profiting from the increased distribution of Adderall. In a recent article titled “The Attention Deficit Fraud” authors Dylan J. Ward and Jennifer Johnson-Lankheim point out that during the last 20 years, the prescription of ADHD drugs has gone from rare diagnosis to a common disorder. Sales of stimulant drugs prescribed to treat these conditions increased from $40 million a decade ago to $10 billion in 2013. It is also noted that the chances of a child receiving an ADHD diagnosis are now one in five. Of those who are diagnosed with ADHD, 70 percent will be prescribed a powerful stimulant like Adderall. Most children who are prescribed a stimulant will continue to take it well into adulthood. Dr. Allen Frances, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Duke University says that “the overwhelming majority of customers are children and adolescents being treated for impulsiveness, inability to concentrate, restlessness and occasional malaise—characteristics of normal children and normal behavior—giving rise to the idea that the ‘condition’ we’re trying to cure is childhood itself. We’ve taken normal development and turned it into a mental disorder.

The drug companies are getting wealthy on the backs of millions of vulnerable kids who have no business being diagnosed with anything. It’s pure greed.” The Citizens Commission on Human Rights Florida states that ADHD drugs are a cash cow. Drug companies are more interested in profits than the well-being of patients. They go on to say, “The American Psychiatric Association receives a significant amount of money from drug companies, so they were more than happy to expand the symptoms of ADHD to allow for more diagnoses and more prescriptions.” These inflated diagnoses and prescriptions allow drug companies to increase their revenues by selling Adderall to a larger audience. The adverse side effects of Adderall combined with the increased sale and distribution of it result in many people paying the ultimate price for abusing it. Next, we will discuss the adverse health effects of Adderall and how deaths from abusing it are on the rise.

Erik MacLaren, PhD, notes that there are many detrimental effects that can arise from abusing Adderall. Some of these effects include increased blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, increased risk for stroke, weight loss, lack of sleep, suicidal thoughts, and an overall decline in health. Adderall also has the potential to become a highly addictive drug. One reason Adderall is so addicting is that it is an amphetamine. Erik MacLaren says that amphetamines bind to specific neurons in the brain resulting in increased dopamine levels. While small, controlled levels of amphetamines provide the calming and focusing effects that are needed to treat patients suffering from ADHD, elevated levels of amphetamines cause increased energy, inability to sleep, suppressed appetite, and a general sense of euphoria. Since taking increased levels of Adderall can be a pleasurable experience, students are more likely to form an addiction to it. Adderall has been proven to cause changes in the brain and increase the likelihood of heart problems.

Therefore, it has been linked to increased hospital visits. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage posted an article that says “Adderall masks certain indicators of intoxication that people often use to slow down or stop their consumption of alcohol. When these intoxication signs go unnoticed, the user is at risk of continued drinking, which can lead to alcohol poisoning, coma, or death. Mixing Adderall with other drugs increases the risks of overdose. In fact, in 2009, 67% of people admitted to an emergency room for complications with prescription stimulants such as Adderall had other drugs in their system.” CCHR International demonstrates that the increasing prescription of stimulant-type drugs may be contributing to unintentional overdoses or inducing suicidal behavior. The CDC report says that of all drug overdose deaths among adolescents aged 15-19 in 2015, 13.5 percent were suicide.

As can be seen, Adderall is currently being abused in many ways. With the increased pressures of recent college coursework, students are abusing Adderall to stay up and study for tests. Drug companies have also influenced The American Psychiatric Association to extend the list of symptoms, so a broader audience of patents can be reached. The overuse of Adderall can be very detrimental to the overall health of those taking it. The increased drug overdose death rate is evidence of this.

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Adderall Abuse Among College Students. (2022, May 15). Retrieved from

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