Adderall abuse occurring on UK’s campus

By Carol Seiler

The stress of midterms makes many UK students flustered, as they cram for exams, rush to write 10-page-plus papers and maintain a social life. For some, it can all be easily accomplished by swallowing a pill.

The so-called “magic pill” is Adderall. Adderall is a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. It is one of the more common medications used to treat children and adults for symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Those who have ADHD have more difficulty focusing, controlling their actions and remaining still or quiet compared with others of the same age, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website.

Adderall is legal for those who have been medically diagnosed with ADHD and have a prescription to the medication. However, Adderall is mainly taken illegally by college students who aren’t medically diagnosed with ADHD and don’t have a legal prescription to the medication.

“College students use Adderall illegally during times of high academic stress, like midterm and final exams, to help them stay awake to study, concentrate, memorize and to make work more interesting,” said Alan D. DeSantis, a communication professor who has done extensive research and conducted ongoing surveys and interviews about Adderall abuse on UK’s campus. DeSantis was also featured on “60 Minutes” in 2010 regarding Adderall abuse.

“Adderall abuse is happening on UK’s campus,” said Lauren Vanhook, a first-year pharmacy student who recalls a time from her undergraduate career at UK when she overheard a classmate talking about how she popped three Adderalls the night before an exam to study. Vanhook said she has never taken Adderall, but if she would ever want it, she would know where to get it or information about how to obtain it.

“Students are obtaining Adderall from others who have legal prescriptions,” DeSantis said. “Four percent of UK students who have legal prescriptions to Adderall are sharing.”

He added that “Kentucky has one of the highest prescriptions to Adderall, therefore UK’s campus has one of the higher numbers compared to other college campuses with Adderall abuse.

“Most college students abusing Adderall don’t consider Adderall as a drug,” he said. “To them, drugs are dirty like meth, crack and heroine. Adderall is not dirty. Adderall is okay. Students see Adderall as a steroid for the brain.”

However, “Adderall is a drug,” said Dr. Laurie Arndorfer, chief of psychiatry for University Health Service. “It’s a stimulant, and how Adderall works is that it increases two chemicals in the brain that help with focus: dopamine and epinephrine.”

Said Dana Cunningham, a third-year pharmacy student, “Anything that affects you psychologically is considered a drug.”

Also, as with the use of any drug, there are short- and long-term effects.

The effects of casually using Adderall without a prescription, “depending on the milligrams you take, you can experience dry mouth, mood swings and an increase in your pulse and blood pressure, leading to cardiovascular events such as arrhythmia, heart attack and stroke,” Arndorfer said.

“Everybody knows that Adderall abuse is happening on UK’s campus, and people are aware, they just don’t know what to do about it,” said Laura Mudd, a third-year pharmacy student.

Arndorfer’s message to college students currently using Adderall without a legal prescription is that “there are a lot of risks, and it’s illegal, and also you are putting your health at risk.”