ADHD drugs should not be misused as a "study drug"

ADHD drugs should not be misused as a

As October rolls around, a familiar feeling of dread enters the minds of students all over campus. We have officially entered midterm season, and with that, each student is faced with an increased amount of coursework whether it be tests, papers or midterm assignments. For two to three weeks, we forgo Wine Wednesday at Gallette’s and spend our nights at Gorgas instead, studying and cracking open textbooks we have been scared to look at. 

As students start to freak out and realize the daunting task ahead of them, my phone starts to blow up like clockwork each semester. It is not because I have a test bank or because I am a tutor, but rather, because I have ADHD and take Adderall.  Many students believe that with my medication, they may be able to complete their work in a more timely and organized fashion.

I was very fortunate to be diagnosed with ADHD at a very young age. In the second grade, my inattentiveness and irritability due to even the slightest sound or movement caused many problems with my teacher. What she perceived as a behavioral problem my parents saw as out of my control, and I was brought to a neurologist and promptly diagnosed with ADHD. Since then, I think they have put my picture in the DSM IV next to the definition of ADHD, and in my fame as the poster child for this condition, I have learned a significant amount about the symptoms. 

The symptoms of this disorder are often separated into two categories, inattention and hyperactivity. Inattentive behaviors often include difficulty sustaining attention, distractibility, organizational difficulties, failure to complete schoolwork and an increased amount of careless errors in coursework. These behaviors are harder to detect and are often construed as being a behavioral problem. Furthermore, inattentive symptomology is more prevalent among girls and women, which has caused debate amongst clinicians on how to more adequately address this discrepancy and the under-diagnosis of women with ADHD. 

Hyperactive symptoms are generally fairly noticeable; we all remember the class clown in elementary school who could not get through a lesson staying in his seat. Symptoms of hyperactivity include an inability to stay quiet or seated in class, difficulty being patient and a predisposition of interruption and intrusion on others. 

Across all sexes and symptomologies, individuals with ADHD are more prone to depression and are often unable to cope with stressors and frequent mood swings. It is no wonder that clinicians and educators alike have recognized that students with this disorder often have trouble in the classroom. For this reason, many students who have been diagnosed with ADHD utilize Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), which accommodate to students so that these issues do not cause them to fall short in the classroom. 

These provisions may include one-on-one assistance and extended time on tests. Medication serves a similar purpose. Drugs like Adderall and Concerta are used to minimize the symptoms and serve as additional clearance of roadblocks in the classroom. Even with an IEP and medication, many students may still find school difficult. The most intelligent students may struggle to complete assignments in three hours that classmates can complete in thirty minutes, and remembering deadlines and staying organized may still prove challenging even with high dosages. 

While ADHD is certainly not a paralyzing cognitive disability, taking medication is absolutely vital to my success in school. When I am off my medication, I eat more than usual, I have trouble staying awake, and completing any coursework is entirely out of the question. 

When people text me and ask me for my medicine, I often wonder if they fail to realize that, albeit not debilitating, ADHD does make academia significantly more difficult for many students and the medication we take only attempts to level the playing field. These pharmaceuticals are a means of compensating for a deficit, not a way for you to increase performance. 

Generally speaking, self-prescribing a controlled substance is never a good idea. While we may not think of Adderall as a “bad” drug, it is one that students in particular often become addicted to. Studies estimate that nearly 1 in 6 students in college misuse ADHD medication, yet we often do not perceive this as the problem it is because it isn’t used for insobriety but rather to get ahead of work. 

Adderall and other similar medications are classified as amphetamines, a class of drugs characterized by the ease of addiction and their stimulation of different parts of the brain. It is easy to become dependent, especially at the collegiate level, when you feel that a stimulant can help you crank out a paper or study for a test you haven’t prepared for. In submitting to that idea, the line between user and addict may be crossed. While the effects are not nearly as taxing as some other drugs, there is no need to self-medicate with an unnecessary stimulant that compromises your brain chemistry. 

When friends tell me they need an Adderall to get through the week or ask me incessantly for one before a test, I worry that they fail to understand what it means to really need a medication. There is a very clear line between necessity and want, and this line is especially clear in the consumption of pharmaceuticals. 

For those who do not have ADHD and seek out Adderall, be cognizant of the people and purpose these drugs aim to assist. If you do not have these troubles in the classroom, be grateful that you can achieve a similar affect with buying a Venti coffee at Starbucks. Medication should not be a means of alleviating your responsibilities. 

To everyone I inevitably send this article to, no, I will not sell you my medicine, but if you need me to save you a seat at Gorgas, you’ve got my number. 

Madeline Anscombe is a senior majoring in anthropology. Her column runs biweekly. 

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