Adderall at UNL: Helpful or harmful?
Story and Video by Carly Jensen, NewsNetNebraska
The use of Adderall and other stimulants are rising on college campuses. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is no different. Everyone seems interested in this little orange pill that is classified as an amphetamine. Teens and college students abuse it, some adults are addicted to it, teachers of young students wish their kids were taking it and children at the age of four are being prescribed it. Although it is being used in all age groups the most significant abuse of Adderall occurs between the ages of 18 and 22. This is because at universities young adults are now regulating their prescription drugs on their own.
In the 2015 College Prescription Drug study (CPDS), done by Ohio State University, 71 percent of college undergraduates say it is very easy to get a hold of Adderall. It’s so easy that some students are taking too much of it and then drinking on top of that. A UNL Junior, Payton Smock says during her freshman year, she saw what the effects of taking too much Adderal could have on one of her friends.
“He felt like he was having a heart attack at a party once. He was just freaking out,” says Smock.
After witnessing her friend overdose on the drug, Smock realized the drug is more powerful than just a “study drug.”
Taking Adderall to extend the effects of alcohol is a common situation that Nurse Manager, Jaci Bowen, sees at the Bryan Independence Center. Bowen believes mixing Adderall with alcohol is the most dangerous use of the drug.
Bowen says the root of Adderall abuse on college campuses stems from a lack of knowledge about the drug. People who are taking it for non-medical reasons don’t realize it is an addictive amphetamine. The risk, Bowen says, is when non-prescribed students take the drug to cram for a test, and don’t know what they are really putting into their bodies. Some may think the pill is magical, and will give them that “quick fix.” What most people don’t know is that Adderall can speed up heart their rate, cause insomnia, increase anxiety, cause paranoia, dry mouth and nervousness.
A psychiatric nurse practitioner at UNL’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services, Nancy Gerrard, says she is aware of the increasing popularity of Adderall, and that the CAPS center takes diagnosing ADHD and ADD very seriously. Gerrard says it can be up to a six-week process, including multiple doctor’s visits and tests that can be around $600.
Even though the process to get Adderall legally through the University Health Center is a lengthy one, Gerrard and many students know obtaining the study drug illegally on campus is very doable.
“It’s a big problem on our campus, and we are very aware of it and constantly watching for it especially with the people we prescribe to,” says Gerrard.
While Smock and the doctors think using the drug illegally is a problem she says it’s hard to deny it is part of the college lifestyle.
“People think, ‘oh I want to try it’, and then they either get addicted to it or they just like it a lot when they go out to party. I feel like it’s just a part of our culture in a way,” says Smock.
Another UNL student from the video above would like to remain anonymous so we will call her Jenny. Jenny says as soon as people in college found out she was prescribed Adderall they asked to buy from her. Jenny was prescribed it in high school but never thought about selling to her friends until at UNL. The drug is still a necessity for Jenny but from time to time she has a couple extra and doesn’t see the harm in giving one to a friend when they need to cram for a test.
Smock, says the same thing happened to her. When she was a freshman she had at least 10 people asking to buy from her within the first week of classes. As a junior, she says if people didn’t already know she doesn’t sell, she guesses double that amount would ask her, because the demand for the drug has gone up so much.
The Skinny Effect
An additional common side effect of Adderall is a suppressed appetite.
“Another thing we see with college students who come in for treatment is they started using for weight loss,” says Bowen.
Bowen has treated patients who became addicted to Adderall after using it to lose weight or progress an eating disorder.
Jenny, who sells Adderall, says she only sells to friends for her safety and that she always explains the side effects of the drug for her users safety. Jenny is aware that a lot of people take the drug for more than just studying and doesn’t want to encourage that.
“I like to help my friends when they are in a tough situation. But when someone’s asking me for it on a Friday night and they don’t seem to be studying I don’t ever enable that,” says Jenny.
Even though Jenny doesn’t want to sell Adderall forever, she agrees with Smock that it seems to be a part of the college culture. Jenny says her whole community of friends in college has tried the drug at least once. They take it, she says, because of the immense pressure students feel these days to get good grades.
“I feel like it’s the norm to do so,” says Jenny.
Even though Jenny and Smock feel like majority of people they know on campus is test-driving this drug, CPDS also showed that only 19 percent of undergraduates are using stimulants illegally. The number is still large but not a majority.
Whether or not the drug is growing on college campuses doesn’t seem to be the main question anymore. Students are getting the drug and using it for a variety of different reasons. CPDS shows that the number one reason to take Adderall illegally is to improve academics, but partying and weight loss are also boosting the drugs popularity.
Without more regulation on the drug there is no clear answer on if the “study drug” will continue to rise. At UNL the process to get the drug is highly regulated, but the demand is high so the abuse is continuing.