Adderall used for recreation and study on UMass campus

By Michelle Williams

Josh Kellogg, Collegian Staff
Also see: More stories on Adderall

It comes in several shapes, colors and doses. Some prefer the extended release, while others seek out immediate effects. While to most the drug is known as Adderall, some refer to it as a miracle drug.

Adderall, nicknamed “Addy” by some students, is a prescription drug used to sharpen focus and, for some, to finish assignments quickly. Students boast that one or two pills can boost cognitive function and allow them to study for hours on end with full concentration and without fatigue.

One University of Massachusetts student, who wished to remain anonymous, plans to use the “study drug” to get through her upcoming final exams.

While she does not have a prescription for Adderall, she said it wasn’t hard to find. “I just had to ask around,” she said. For $5 a pill, she said she gains a focus that makes her “just want to do homework.”

The sophomore said she tried the study drug for the first time this semester, while cramming for a calculus exam. While she said it made her jittery initially, she described how it gave her the ability to work through the night.

Adderall, or amphetamine-dextroamphetamine, entered the pharmaceutical market in the 1960s as a diet pill. It is currently classified as a stimulant medication and appetite suppressant, widely used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The prescription pill stimulates the central nervous system by increasing the amount of certain chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals, or neurotransmitters, help the brain send signals between nerve cells.

It also helps restore the balance of neurotransmitters to the parts of the brain that control the ability to focus and pay attention.

According to a November 2001 study by Project Pulse of the Office of Student Affairs at UMass, 21.6 percent of students surveyed said they used stimulants such as speed or Adderall recreationally in a given year. Of the 1,116 students who were surveyed, 16 percent said they had taken stimulants in the last month for recreational purposes.

Approximately two to four percent of college students in the United States are on medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, more commonly known as ADHD, according to George DuPaul, a professor in the school of psychology at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania who recently published a study on college students with ADHD.

The main source of Adderall, or the similar prescription pill Ritalin, for students, is from other students, he found. Another UMass student, who also wished to remain anonymous, said he was diagnosed with ADHD in seventh grade, and has been on Adderall since the fall of 2008.

“Adderall helps me focus while I am studying and while I am at work. I have to time it correctly at night, though, because I can’t sleep at all if there is any left in my system,” he said.

The student said he has two prescriptions to treat his ADHD – a four-hour immediate release pill of 10 mg of Adderall, and an eight-hour extended release pill similar to Adderall called Vyvanse.

Friends and fellow students ask him on a regular basis to share his prescription pills “probably once every week or two,” he said. “People ask more for them around exam time.”

Around exam time the price of pills often escalates, and can reach even $25 a pill, the student said.

The pills are frequently sold in dormitories, in the library, and are available almost anywhere on-campus. The student said he only sells to people he knows, for fear of repercussions. “I will only sell them to my close friends, and even that I don’t like to do too often, because I don’t want my name to get out as a dealer.”

While the drug is considered by many students to be a miracle, and can help them study late into the night, there are negative side effects that come with snorting or swallowing the pill.

The drugs are amphetamine-based, meaning they are highly addictive, a factor some take into consideration before pill-popping.

“Sometimes [I worry about getting addicted,]” said a UMass student who has taken Adderall several times. “But I know I can do without it.”

Of the drug category that study drugs are placed in, University Health Services states on its website that “stimulants can be addictive.” “Using prescribed stimulants might not lead to physical dependence and withdrawal, but the user might have a hard time stopping because of the effects the drugs produce.”

According to UHS, the use of stimulants recreationally can lead to “increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased energy, rapid or irregular heart beat, reduced appetite, increased body temperature, tremor, paranoia, restlessness, aggressiveness and panic.”

Michelle Williams can be reached at [email protected]