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Students heading to college are in for a crazy and exciting ride – new people, new experiences and a new environment. Learning to balance a whole new routine and lifestyle while managing a full class load often produces anxiety and stress, and some students turn to substances to help regulate their mood and productivity. In particular, a growing percentage of students are turning to Adderall, a prescription medication indicated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), to help them manage their lives.

Adderall is one of the most commonly abused stimulants out there, and it has a reputation for being a so-called “study drug.” One study conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that, between 2006 and 2016, nonmedical use of prescription Adderall among adults rose 67%, while Adderall-related emergency room visits during the same period shot up 156%.

For those who have a medical need for the drug, Adderall helps to calm the mind and allows for a sense of focus. Students taking the drug non-medically have discovered the pill’s effect on their fatigue, focus, and productivity.

The way students are increasingly turning to drugs like alcohol to increase their performance potential at school should not come as a total surprise. Students often have an “always something to do” and “no time to spare” mentality. The need to get good grades and maintain a social life serves as a justification for technically breaking the law. The likelihood for students to abuse Adderall increases as they move through their school years, and Adderall abuse has been found to be more likely at private or elite universities.

Some students abuse Adderall for reasons other than “improving” study habits. These reasons can include weight loss, feeling high or increasing athletic performance.

Abuse of Adderall is not without signs and symptoms. Continued abuse of Adderall can lead to a tolerance, which can leave students unable to perform the activities they used to perform as well without the stimulant as they used to be able to. Other common signs and symptoms of Adderall addiction among students include:

  • Taking the drug despite knowing the harm it can cause
  • Spending a lot of money to get access to Adderall
  • An inability to feel or be alert without the stimulant

Despite the well-documented dangers of Adderall abuse, there is still a growing percentage of the student population abusing Adderall. As a result, school administrators and advocates are stepping up and redefining policies regarding stimulant abuse for cognitive and academic enhancement. Stricter guidelines around ADHD diagnoses and Adderall prescriptions at college health centers are also helping to improve the situation. Ongoing education about the dangers of Adderall abuse along with better and healthier coping skills for students can help to deter them from turning to this prescription drug for academic performance and recreational use.