Adderall abuse, a growing trend on college campuses - KOAM TV 7

Adderall abuse, a growing trend on college campuses

 While the US Food and Drug Administration has longtime approved the use of the amphetamine Adderall to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, other unapproved uses of the drug are increasing on college campuses across the country, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
We spoke with several college students in the Four States area about their illegal use of Adderall, which they say helps them keep their grades high.
"It's better than coffee," said freshman Henry Bell.
Bell used Adderall once to stay awake, and he is not alone.
Other students who agreed to speak to us if we did not reveal their identities say they too have used the stimulant drug. 
"There are a lot of kids that look for it just to focus, including me, I've looked for it," said an area student.
"I have used Adderall without a prescription," said another area student.
Users say it helps them be more productive for longer periods of time.
"I've seen improvements in my test grades," said an area student.  "I'll just take an Adderall or a Vyvance to study because it honestly helps you a lot. You want to study on this stuff. I'm not kidding."
They say even without a prescription, the drug is easy to find.
"Actually it's really accessible, especially on a college campus," a student said.  "People hand it out like candy, honestly."
"A lot of times I go to friends who I know have been prescribed it or people that I know regularly take it or know where to find it," another student said.
While sharing the medication is generally a casual exchange among classmates, officials say it can result in formal charges.
"Anyone that has in their possession prescribed drugs that are not theirs, or in an improper container, that's a felony," said Ken Kennedy, Chief of Police at Missouri Southern State University.
He says whether it was given freely or purchased, it could result in getting expelled from the university.
"They can be cuffed, arrested, taken to the county jail and then the prosecutor's office would bring charges against them and they would possibly do jail time," Kennedy said.
Those who do have a prescription are commonly asked to sell.
"They offer to pay me, of course, because they know they're not going to get it any other way," a student said.  "They'll just say hey, can I get an Adderall because I have the ACT or something like that."
However, Kennedy says selling the drug is just as much of a crime as purchasing it without a prescription.
"It's still dispersing a drug," he said.  "They're not a doctor, so that's illegal to do."
But with final exams and projects currently underway, many say it is a risk they are willing to take.
"With extreme curriculums, I think it can sometimes initiate extreme reactions from students," a student said.
"It's definitely a college thing to do," Bell said.
The students say Adderall usually costs them $3 to $5 dollars a pill.
Users say a 50 milligram pill can keep them awake for 2 days at a time.
Health experts say using this drug without a prescription could have some negative health consequences.
"My roommate has taken it when he felt like kind of shaky," Bell said. "He was alright.  It wasn't that long that he was shaky or whatever."
"Sometimes it makes you really jittery," a student said.  "You feel like running, can be really hard to focus when you feel so much different than you normally do."
Most start using the drug during stressful times.
"I'm going to take this so I can survive my class and survive my homework and my tests and move on in life," a student said.
While many students only take the drug without a prescription during a short time frame, experts say there can be harmful long term effects.
"While it may be helpful in the short term, there are some significant possible medical side effects that I would strongly discourage people from using that medicine," said Charles Graves, M.D., Ozark Center, Freeman Health System.
The immediate side effects include rapid speech, insomnia, agitation, hyperactivity, reduced appetite or paranoia.
Experts say it also increases the release of chemicals in the brain such as dopamine, which over time can empty the brain's natural dopamine stores, creating an addictive cycle of using Adderall to release more dopamine.
"You are pushing your brain to work harder, but there is a point that you kind of use all of your stores of dopamine in your brain," said Nauman Ashraf, M.D., Ozark Center, Freeman Health System.
That is why when frequent users attempt to quit the drug, it can result in depression as the brain works to rebuild its dopamine.
"They may feel sleepy, their appetite may rebound, they may feel different for a few days, but generally, it's safe to stop this cold turkey," Graves said.
Unfortunately, just one improved test grade from illegal Adderall usage is enough to spark an addiction.
"I do feel like I need it to be able to focus," a student said.
"People are pushed to do crazy things when they're in a state of desperation, when there are deadlines coming up and when they just feel like they can't take it all on," said Logan Qualls, student at Pittsburg State University.
Experts argue that it is not worth the risk of forming an addiction.
"People think it is not harmful because it is prescribed by doctors and only used during exams, but I'm not sure how many people are able to only just do it and then just leave it," Ashrof said.
Adderall also increases the blood pressure and heart rates of those who consume it.
Therefore, experts say using Adderall without a prescription is especially dangerous for those with heart conditions because side effects for them could result in seizures or even sudden death.
For those who feel that they may be suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, experts strongly encourage them to get tested by a doctor rather than attempting self-diagnosis.
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