Medical system can’t pay attention to what it’s prescribing

By Alyssa Creamer

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Also see: More stories on Adderall

For a pill classified by the U.S. government as a Schedule 2 drug, manipulating the system to obtain Adderall legally does not seem difficult for students.

One University of Massachusetts student felt she “held her doctor in the palm of her hand,” when she went to her primary care physician to get a referral to a psychiatrist who “tests” for ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).

During this particular psychiatrist’s assessment, the student answered a series of questions such as, “Do you have a hard time concentrating or focusing?” These questions could be perceived as somewhat leading. The student said she answered tactfully, saying yes to questions she felt would ensure she’d be diagnosed with ADD, regardless of having experience the symptoms repeatedly, if at all. “I basically ‘experienced’ as many symptoms as I thought it would take to convince the doctor I was ADD,” she said.

Her psychiatrist claimed the “test” revealed that the student had nine of the nine signs of ADD; zero of the nine signs of hyperactivity. Her examination lasted less than half an hour before the psychiatrist wrote her a prescription.

This reporter’s research revealed there does not seem to be a set or structured test used by all specialists, doctors or psychiatrists to diagnose ADD. Therefore, the phrase “test for ADD” could be seen as misleading. The reporter found that out of the three students who answered questions about how they were diagnosed, two were asked a series of questions or to describe their symptoms, and the other had a more intricate test.

The former University of Massachusetts student interviewed explained that her experience being tested was a series of questions about her mental states and feelings throughout a given day. Her psychiatrist explained that there are nine symptoms, and if a person hits a certain number of those symptoms, they can be prescribed drugs to help them focus.

Another student went through far more rigorous tests assessing his susceptibility to short-term memory issues, IQ and other personality traits. He was diagnosed with ADD and prescribed Concerta, a drug with comparable effects to Adderall.

So, in order to be prescribed Adderall, or its generic counterpart, amphetamine salts, individuals do not have to go through a standard set of tests. And as many students have found, it’s all about finding the doctor who takes out the pen and paper so long as the student claims to suffer from ADHD or ADD symptoms.

Another University student stated she wasn’t even diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. In this instance, the student’s physician said he did not believe she had ADD, but “probably had an anxiety issue.” The student said she was also prescribed Adderall to help her focus and counter anxious feelings.

She also said that she didn’t truly believe she had ADD exactly, but that she knew enough about the illness to make herself appear as though she had it. Her goal? To obtain the drugs legally before finals to use the drug as an “upper” to stay awake and study longer.

That student confessed it would not seem likely that she had ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), as “acting hyper is too irritating to fake.” However, with the wide-range of issues, including both ADD, ADHD and depression, treated with Adderall, a student claiming to experience difficulty concentrating, while merely seeking the drugs to help during finals crunch time, will not find the pathway to this allegedly “dangerous if abused drug” hidden behind roadblocks.

Many other students rely on those who are already prescribed medication to supply their drug desires. But for those who consider the risk of getting caught too great, lying and acting are ancient methods being abused to get legal prescriptions.

According to Diane Fedorchak, director of the Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS), only a small minority, perhaps five percent of the study body, legitimately suffer from ADHD. Meanwhile, another eight percent of UM students have admitted using stimulants such as Adderall, Ritalin or Concerta within the past 30 days without a prescription.

These examples illustrate that an individual who wants Adderall so he or she can fly, hyper-focused, through assignments will probably be able to get it.

The Daily Collegian will have a follow-up piece tomorrow detailing physicians’ concerns regarding the over-prescription of “study drugs” and their use and abuse by students and young people.

Alyssa Creamer can be reached at [email protected] Matthew M. Robare contributed to this report.