Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Are students turning to Adderall to get A’s?

By Matthew M. Robare

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“It’s a very easy thing to find,” said one University of Massachusetts sophomore who wished to remain anonymous. “All my friends are prescribed it, and so is my sister. I don’t even buy it.”

She was talking about Adderall, a drug prescribed to control Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and other attention-related issues. Adderall is made from amphetamines, a class of stimulants placed on Schedule II of the Federal Controlled Substances Act, meaning that “The abuse of the drug . . . may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.”

She said that she doesn’t believe taking Adderall will have any negative consequences.

“I don’t snort it, I just take it,” she said, echoing a belief many students seem to hold that, if taken the way the drug is medically prescribed and not insufflated recreationally, there are no issues.

“I love Adderall,” she added. “I love it. I can write papers in, like, an hour and a half; I don’t eat all day and then I’ll smoke weed, get really retarded, and it’s so fun.”

At the end of the 2009 fiscal year, Shire Pharmaceuticals, the British company which developed and marketed Adderall, had made about $2.7 billion from sales and royalties on generics, according to the company’s financial summary page on its website.

According to Diane Fedorchak, director of the Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS), only eight percent of UMass students have used stimulants in the past 30 days when not under the direction of a doctor. The “stimulants” category, however, does not currently include questions on caffeine, and her program is engaged in research on what constitutes caffeine abuse. Fedorchak delivered these numbers while staring at her coffee cup, and on her desk there was a framed picture with the words “With enough coffee I could rule the world.”

“What we find is that most students don’t use these,” Fedorchak said of prescription stimulants. “We hear of increases around mid-terms and finals,” she added.

She said people who are prescribed Adderall to treat ADHD have a brain chemistry where its stimulant effect “calms their brains” and allows such individuals to focus and behave normally.

“The students who are saying they like it,” said Fedorchak, “are probably getting more of a high effect and saying they can stay up longer and get a lot of work done and then, what usually happens is a crash.”

“Coming down is really bad,” the unnamed female student said. “I get in a really bad mood and people would notice and not like me. I get pretty antisocial on it; it depends how much I take, what the dosage is. Usually I just focus on one thing and don’t want to be bothered.”

Fedorchak said University Health Services does not believe using prescription stimulants or other so-called “study drugs” are the ideal means of preparing for exams.

“I would say that using a drug to get your work done and then not eating might not be the healthiest way to go about doing something,” she said. “And then crashing from the use of the pills because, if you only use it sporadically, then yes, there’s a crash and that has some health consequences. And then if you’re going to follow that up by smoking marijuana, that has consequences.”

Fedorchak said she would ask students who use study drugs alone or in tandem with depressants like marijuana in what frequency they smoke marijuana or take Adderall, if they believe it is acceptable to be using a drug to get work done and what such students’ future plans entail. “Are you learning how to pace yourself and balance work and life, or are you getting into a habit of ‘Oh I’m going to take a pill and then totally crash,’” she posited.

The student said she wasn’t worried about forming a habit.
“If I had a test, I’d take it a couple times a week,” she said. “But if not then I’d smoke weed a lot.”

“Never drink on Adderall,” the student cautioned. “I can tell you that from experience; you black out.”

Fedorchak cautioned students not prescribed stimulants that such drugs could have adverse effects on their body chemistry.

“When you’re putting a stimulant into your body and you’re not working with a doctor, you don’t know what it’s doing to your heart rate,” she said. “You don’t know the dosage, so you don’t necessarily know how much you’re taking. A lot of times people are getting these pills from their friends, so they might get one dose from you and another dose from someone else, so it’s really easy to take more than your tolerance can handle. If you’re used to a lower dose and all of a sudden you get a higher dose, before you know it that could definitely have some health impact, absolutely,” she emphasized.

According to a pamphlet distributed by University Health Services called “Prescription Drug Abuse,” possible negative side effects of stimulants include trouble sleeping, high body temperature and irregular heartbeat, heart failure, seizures, hostility and paranoia.

Fedorchak said one of the main health effects of using and abusing stimulants are the withdrawal symptoms when a person stops using them. She said she worried a culture is developing of students cramming and pushing work off to the last minute, then becoming reliant on stimulants to soldier through. She said she fears students may be getting a rush out of feeling rushed.

“This is a really important time in the school year,” Fedorchak said. “Crunch time; finals and papers are due, so ‘How do I get enough sleep? Will I hang out with my friends? Maybe I didn’t do my papers all semester and now I have to do them last minute. Maybe next time I could not due that.’ So there’s definitely some negative consequences associated with taking these kinds of stimulants.”

One UMass student, though, seemed to think she would be alright regardless.

“No [I don’t think I’ll ever have any negative effects]. I can’t think of what they’d be,” the student said. “Besides, I don’t use it that often.”

Matthew M. Robare can be reached at [email protected]

8 Comments

8 Responses to “Are students turning to Adderall to get A’s?”

  1. anonymous on December 7th, 2010 9:58 am

    ‘“The students who are saying they like it,” said Fedorchak, “are probably getting more of a high effect and saying they can stay up longer and get a lot of work done and then, what usually happens is a crash.”’

    Students don’t use Adderall for recreational uses (it’s not worth it). It’s for academic reasons-in other words, it’s a ‘cheat/working’ pill.

    The “high” effect Fedorchak is referring to is dopamine being released, which is common in nearly all drugs. Dopamine is highly associated with reward and addiction. Adderall affects the mesolimbic reward pathway; the same way cocaine and meth amphetamine, two highly addictive drugs, does. Also, it doesn’t help that Adderall is an amphetamine based drug, which is illegal in the U.S., but manufactured as a prescription drug- ironic much?

  2. anon on December 7th, 2010 4:27 pm

    As someone who is prescribed Adderall for ADD, it bothers me that so many people abuse it. From the students who use it to get a rush or do work they waited until the last minute to do to the hollywood starlets using it to lose weight, it’s aggravating to see the controversies it’s causing. This was the only medicine, after having tried many others, that produced a positive result and, if with all this controversy, the FDA says it’s “unsafe,” I’ll be up a creek without a paddle. For people to be complete retards and be irresponsible to potentially ruin things for everyone else is beyond aggravating.

  3. Mary on December 7th, 2010 8:26 pm

    Very popular among graphic design students! Everyone in my class takes it to finish their projects.

  4. Casey on December 8th, 2010 10:37 am

    I would have to say that it’s incredibly easy to obtain this from doctors and nurse practitioners. I don’t know if I have ADHD per se, but I have been unable to focus on my work all semester. I’m fidgety, inattentive, and usually would just spend my time watching TV or playing games. Because of this I would get anxious and it just becomes a vicious cycle, with me getting pissed at myself for not being able to sit still and do work but still unable to attempt it. I got a rx for Adderall last week after a 40 min appointment and was able to cram in the library all week. I have not experienced any negative side effects but I don’t know how it will affect me in the long run. I plan on taking it regularly and not just for exams. I find that a lot of the background noise I experience in my mind has subdued, and instead I’m just calm, focused and productive.

    This is also a savior for MCAT studying, just saying.

    If Adderall got banned there are still a ton of other non-amphetamine pharmacological options, but are they really as effective? I guess I’m too new to this to form a solid opinion, but I will admit that I am not budging quite yet with finals period and all.

  5. Not Happy on December 10th, 2010 12:27 am

    See the Collegian buy UMass a Federal Civil Rights complaint for hostile environment against the disabled. As hesitant as I am, knowing how fascist Holub is, you folks have done it….

    Enough is enough…

  6. Jackie on December 15th, 2010 11:14 am

    i’m a college senior at a highly credible university who doesn’t have ADD/ADHD but was able to finagle a script from my sister’s psychiatrist, as she is diagnosed with the disorder. i have been abusing the drug for almost 2 years, taking ridiculous doses since i have increased my tolerance over time. i am terrible with time management and have come to rely on the drug, finishing a 90 pill script (about 900mgs worth of adderall) within a week or two. i crash, miss out on more work/class since i’m so fatigued or depressed, and wait a week for another script, sometimes holding myself over with a friends dose. it’s my own fault, i am 21yrs old and should know better, but people really don’t understand the potential for abuse when placed in the wrong hands. i try doing work now without it, it’s an uphill struggle. with the end of teh semester approaching i’m hoping to go on a hiatus, this drug has ruined my life (by my own hand) and destroyed my chances at a good grad school. i have formed disgusting study habits and sleeping patterns that i need to fix while i still can. thanks for your time 🙂

  7. Responding to Jackie on February 18th, 2011 5:26 pm

    “…. was able to finagle a script from my sister’s psychiatrist, as she is diagnosed with the disorder”

    If she is your biological sister — same parents — there is greater than an 80% chance that you DO have ADD/ADHD — at least to some extent. You may not have as severe a case, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have it.

    And some of us truly consider this a miracle drug — forget getting high, I can actually take 10 mg and go back to sleep for an hour, with 5 mg there it isn’t a choice, I *am* going to fall back asleep. So I am taking a large amount and it has done WONDERS for me. It is a true miracle drug and the results have been beyond belief.

  8. Ben Dover on April 3rd, 2018 8:11 pm

    Hi. I have been in college for 6 years and I don’t see myself graduating anytime soon. I randomly change my major on impulse and have no idea how to read books. When I say I don’t know how to read books I don’t mean I don’t know how to read but just don’t know how to sit down and read the book. When teachers teach in school my mind wonders off every single way but what the teacher is talking about. Sometimes my girlfriend tells me things that go in one ear and out the other and then shes randomly in New York and i’m not sure why or when shes coming back. All I want to do is read. I chugged 2 giant big cups of coffee the other day and started learning everything for 5 years. I learned everything and then found out that chugging a cup of coffee is not the best option so I learned about the adderall. I want to take the adderall and start marathoning every single books. I want to read every text book i have and learn evertyhing, I just want to take the adderall and be smart and get done with college and re take every single class I have. Going to doctor with my newly discovered ADHD to get through college gonna be lit gonna learn all this shit. But I starting to continplate on if this pill will make me forget about everything else and I wont be hyper or impulsive anymore and its like do I do the thing with the pill and became the smart or do i not do the thing with the pill and stay the way I am. I like the way I am but I also wanna get through this books.

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