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.
Adderall is a powerful mental stimulant. It is an amphetamine mix, similar to cocaine and methamphetamine. You can see why it can be addictive. In fact, a recent national survey found that almost 90 percent of full-time college students who had abused Adderall in the past year were also binge drinkers. They were eight times more likely to use cocaine, eight times more tranquilizers and five times more likely to abuse pain relievers.
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.
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