THE BLOG

Adderall: The New Red Bull for Teens

10/04/2011 12:17 am ET | Updated Dec 03, 2011

As school begins to kick into high gear, high school students prepare for a year of point bargaining and countless hours viewing lessons by the Khan Academy. Kids are unearthing their books, graphing calculators ... and Adderall pills?

Adderall is a prescription drug that is usually prescribed to children who have ADHD. Adderall and another drug Ritalin address these symptoms. They sharpen focus, increase ability to concentrate, and make it easier to retain information. Adderall and Ritalin work well for patients who have ADHD. However, they also have similar effects on people who don't have ADHD, at least initially. As a result, students -- mainly college students, but an increasing number of high school students, my peers -- use these prescription stimulants illegally to help them stay on top of their schoolwork and pull all-nighters. Red Bull is so yesterday.

Interestingly, the profile of Adderall abusers is atypical. They are not who you think. They are mostly students like me -- some over-achievers (not really me) who are trying to get ahead and some (more like me) who are trying to keep up with their school work. I have seen the fiercest of debaters pop a pill before a round to "get in the zone." I have seen a D student down a pill with a quick swig of water before a Spanish quiz. I, myself, have been offered the pill multiple times during finals week. Sounds run-of-the-mill? However, if you do some investigation on the internet, there are numerous university newspapers, including those of Harvard and Stanford, discussing this epidemic. There are forums on the net filled with desperate cries from students who are ensnared by the drug.

The massive appeal of the drug is undeniable. It works -- but in a way that could cut like a double-edged sword. While the star debater just won his round with superhuman focus, he is now three times more likely to use marijuana. While the D student did, in fact, get an A on her quiz, her dopamine levels just increased beyond normal levels. It worked for them, so why won't they use it again?

While schools are surveilling students' Facebook entries for inappropriate drug-related behavior, they should actually shift their focus within their own halls. Adderall is a drug that is potent and deadly. It is used under their very nose and they don't sniff it.