Adderall abuse still increasing, still illegal
Philosophy major at Santa Monica College, David J., who asked that his full name not be disclosed, joined his friends for a study session when five of them each took a pill and popped it into their mouths. According to them, this pill would aid them in their concentration, and they called it Adderall.
“I didn't believe what I saw,” he exclaimed.
His experience is relatively common. A 2011 study called "Monitoring The Future" revealed that one in every 10 college students has taken prescription stimulants in the past year without a professional diagnosis.
Adderall is one of these stimulant drugs, which is prescribed to people diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD.
Prescription stimulant abuse has dramatically increased over the past 10 years, according to "Adderall Abuse on College Campuses: A Comprehensive Literature Review," published in 2012 on PubMed.
According to Mayo Clinic, psychostimulant drugs, or stimulants, are the most commonly prescribed medications for this disorder, which help improve symptoms of unfocused attention and hyperactivity.
“If a person genuinely has ADHD, then they probably should take their medication," says David Shirinyan, a physiological psychology professor at SMC. "But if they don't, and they are taking it for fun, or to study, then the cost benefit doesn't make sense."
Stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin do not actually make a person smarter, but they give a person an inflated sense of intelligence and productivity, according to an article featured on Time's website called "Adderall may not make you smarter, but it makes you think you are."
This drug unleashes a neurotransmitter called dopamine in the brain, which activates its reward system, and gives the user a sense of euphoria. As a result, it might make studying more pleasurable, but it does not improve a person's cognitive abilities, according to the same article.
"Because it is this powerful stimulant, if you are not wired to acquire it, then it is really like abusing any street drug,” says Shirinyan.
So does Adderall affect abusers and people who suffer from ADHD differently?
Shirinyan warns that people who don't need Adderall will just experience a generic amphetamine effect, characterized by high energy, jitteriness and euphoria. Prescribed users who take the drug as prescribed for ADHD on a regular basis experience it differently than those who take it to party or to study, he says.
Shirinyan emphasizes that there are differences dependent on the user. He states that the non-prescribed user may take a high dose of the drug, while the prescribed user is more likely to take the drug in doses as prescribed so the body has time to accommodate to the changes.
"People who really need it will experience greater focus, more attentiveness, and they can concentrate on what is in front of them, rather than being distracted,” Shirinyan says.
Manuel Lee, who asked The Corsair to use a different name, is a Santa Monica College student whose sister suffers from ADHD. Lee agrees that Adderall is a viable treatment for ADHD, and says that his sister was able to concentrate in class after she started taking the medication.
“It balances the chemicals in the brain to actually let [ADHD sufferers] focus, and to do what their brain should be doing on a regular basis,” says Lee.
Student Houtan Shokri, who was diagnosed with ADHD, claims that he did not have good experiences with Adderall and other stimulant medications.
“I really don't believe in the use of it because it messes with your head," says Shokri. "I got really sick. When I took it, I would get all depressed, and I would be very angry, and I would always be getting into fights with my friends.”
But Shokri says that taking Adderall in the past has allowed him to learn how to condition his mind to be more focused.
“I realized that after you take it a few times, your body would learn what your teacher wants you to do, or what you should be doing," says Shokri. "Thus you can teach yourself how to stay focused and your mentality just completely changes.