By Alfa · Sep 18, 2004 ·
  1. Alfa

    Prescription Drug Adderall Is All The Rage On College Campuses

    Editor's note: To protect the identities of interviewees who used or
    sold Adderall illegally, only their first names have been printed.

    Henry, an Emory University undergrad, couldn't stay awake. A quick
    learner, he always put off studying until the last minute. As tests
    loomed closer, he'd pull all-nighters. But copious cups of coffee
    didn't do the job to help him cram. His eyes eventually fluttered over
    his books, and he frequently nodded off.

    Henry's solution came freshman year in the form of a pill called
    Adderall. Prescribed to his roommate for attention
    deficit/hyperactivity disorder, the drug kept Henry alert and zipping
    through his notes for hours.

    Soon he was hooked.

    Now a senior, Henry says Adderall has guided him through dozens of
    all-night study sessions over the past four years. "My mind focuses on
    the work," he says, "and my concentration is incredible."

    Like Henry, Georgia Tech graduate student Gordon says he takes
    Adderall every once in awhile to buckle down and "crank out an A."
    Jayme, a recent Georgia Tech grad, says the now-ubiquitous drug worked
    wonders throughout her college career.

    "It's so great, I can find it anywhere," she says. "Through sorority
    sisters, people in class, wherever. It's worth paying for, to stay
    awake for 30 hours and know I'll get a good grade."

    Henry, Gordon and Jayme are part of a growing trend among college
    students, an estimated one in five who pop Adderall without a
    prescription, according to a 2002 Johns Hopkins study. Many students
    don't consider their use of Adderall to be abusive because it helps
    them perform well in school. Henry claims he's seen people pop pills
    in the middle of class -- if you didn't know better you might mistake
    it for Advil or birth control.

    But Adderall, an amphetamine approved by the Food and Drug
    Administration in 1996 to treat attention disorders, can have serious
    side effects, including heart failure, seizures and strokes --
    especially when mixed with alcohol or other drugs. After all, it's

    What's more, college counselors aren't always attuned to the presence
    on campus of prescription pills, which, for the most part, wreak less
    havoc than -- and don't carry the same stigma as -- illegal drugs like
    heroin or cocaine.

    "We see more students that abuse alcohol, marijuana and crystal meth,"
    says Virginia Bell-Pringle, a Georgia State University assistant
    clinical professor and the school's coordinator of alc
    ohol and drug

    But, according to some, Adderall is just as seductive as those other
    drugs -- though for a different reason.

    During his second semester at Emory, Henry says he quickly upped his
    dose from 10 milligrams to 20. Over the summer, which he spent at his
    parents' house, Henry went to see his physician and said he was having
    trouble focusing. He claims he mentioned he tried Adderall and that it
    worked. Within minutes, Henry had his own prescription for 20
    20-milligram pills.

    Back at Emory, he found he had pills to spare and noticed that people
    on campus were clamoring for them -- and were willing to cough up
    cash. Henry says he started selling the pills for $5 a pop; when
    finals came around, they went for $10.

    While at Tech, Jayme says she took Adderall, on average, four times a
    week. "It helped me sit still for about six hours, which is quite
    remarkable," she says. "I could write a paper quicker than usual,
    because all my thoughts seemed collected rather than scattered

    After a few months, a single pill wasn't working as well, so she upped
    her dose. She says she took Adderall every day for four months while
    studying for the LSAT. During the height of her use, she averaged 60
    milligrams in a 12- to 24-hour period. That's the amount prescribed to
    patients with severe narcolepsy, according to Health Square, a
    consumers' health information website. If a person who's never
    ingested Adderall took that much, he or she could experience
    hallucinations, abdominal pain or heart failure, the website warns.

    During her sophomore year, Jayme mixed Adderall with Ritalin, another
    amphetamine prescribed for attention disorders. She says she suffered
    an acute panic attack, sending her to the emergency room. Doctors
    attributed the attack to her repeated use of Adderall when she didn't
    medically need it. Still, she kept taking the drug.

    Stephen Holtzman, an Emory professor of pharmacology, points out that
    in addition to increasing heart rate, blood pressure and body
    temperature (and, in some cases, causing strokes or heart attacks),
    Adderall's side effects include insomnia, depression, loss of
    appetite, digestive problems and, for 10 percent to 12 percent of
    those who try it, addiction.

    "Although the amount of Adderall produced is nationally controlled,"
    Holtzman says, "it's very easy for it to be abused and for people to
    become addicted."

    What's more, some students Creative Loafing interviewed said they
    frequently take Adderall during long nights of partying, allowing them
    to stay up into the wee hours. The toxicology of the drug, Holtzman
    says, is greatly increased when mixed with booze.

    Emory senior Lindsay is one student who tried Adderall and didn't like
    it. Her first and only experience with the drug turned her off
    immediately. She began trembling after her boyfriend gave her Adderall
    to cram for a test. "I couldn't stop shaking, and I threw up several
    times," she says. "When I finally did try to sleep, I couldn't. I
    tossed and turned, and it was miserable."

    She says she swore off Adderall -- due partly to the fact that, unlike
    Henry, Gordon and Jayme, it didn't help her grades. "I didn't do well
    on my test the next day," she says, "because I was too busy hanging
    over the toilet."

    But those whom Adderall keeps focused see the positives as outweighing
    the negatives. "A final in a class might be worth 40 percent of my
    grade," Henry says. "I've got to take Adderall to study for it and ace
    the test."

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