While many high school students turn to caffeine or energy drinks to focus while preparing for a test, some students also turn to un-prescribed Adderall and other stimulants. Adderall is prescribed by doctors as a central nervous system stimulant that affects chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control.
However, according to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, 10 percent of middle school and high school aged kids are using Adderall without a prescription.
Adderall and other stimulants are used to treat ADD (attention deficit disorder) and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). According to webmd.com, ADHD is the most common behavior disorder in childhood. Five percent of teens are diagnosed with ADHD, according to Leawood psychiatrist Scott Jones.
According to the Washington Post, from 2002 to 2005, Adderall sales grew more than 3,100 percent. However, not all of these drug sales go to people who have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.
An anonymous STA student is one of many teenagers who takes Adderall without a prescription. She has been taking the drug for two years and uses it mostly before big exams.
“You are so focused,” she said of her experience with the drug. “Especially because I’m not prescribed it, it creates a way for me to zone in on whatever I’m working on.”
She said she only uses Adderall for school work and never for recreational purposes.
“[Adderall] helps me focus on a long study guide the night before a test or when I need to be focused at school,” she said.
Jones recognizes that teenagers who are not prescribed Adderall can feel the same benefits as someone who has been prescribed Adderall.
“Some studies show that stimulants can increase focus in people without ADHD,” Jones said.
Although Adderall has benefits, taking someone else’s medication poses health risks, Jones said. Some of the side effects include increased energy, mood elevation, increased heart rate, appetite suppression, dry mouth, insomnia, anxiousness and restlessness.
In addition, it is illegal to use prescription medication without a physician’s orders.
Despite the illegality, the anonymous source feels like taking someone else’s medication is not a big deal.
“I mean, it’s like buying anything else that you shouldn’t be buying,” the anonymous source said. “I would never be open about the ‘dealing’ part of it, but I don’t think it should be punishable by law because you wanted extra help studying. I love the people that I’ve bought from—they are great people just looking for money. One girl in particular never took her own prescription because she didn’t like how they made her feel, so she kept getting them to sell them.”
Counselor Amanda Johnson is aware of this type of prescription drug abuse, especially in regards to the messages that prescription drug abuse sends. According to Johnson, just because a certain kind of medicine comes from a doctor does not mean that it is any less dangerous to take.
“It’s tricky,” Johnson said. “People think it’s okay [to take someone else’s medication] because it’s a prescription, and it’s not from the street. It allows this kind of muddied area where we can get away with things but in reality it is all the same thing.”
There is another perspective to consider besides the person taking the drugs: the person selling the drugs. Johnson feels like these people enable the abuser’s behavior.
“[People who sell their medication] are allowing [prescription drug abuse] to happen,” Johnson said.
Senior Brie Sandridge has been prescribed Vyvanse, a drug similar to Adderall. She began using the drug in December of her senior year. Sandridge said she was prescribed the drug because she was having trouble focusing and was not getting anything done.
“When I was trying to apply to college [online] one time and I was just like sitting there and thinking about what I should do and this thing popped up and said ‘you have been sitting here for 55 minutes’,” Sandridge said.
Although Sandridge began noticing symptoms of ADD around freshman year, she was not treated until recently.
“I made my own doctor’s appointment and went in,” Sandridge said.
Sandridge takes Vyvanse to focus on school work during the week but she also takes it on the weekend to get things like chores done.
“Before [I was on Vyvanse] I wasn’t even motivated to get up and do little things like cleaning my room, now I like to keep my room clean,” Sandridge said.
During the couple years when Brie was not prescribed Vyvanse and was having trouble focusing, she admitted to considering taking Adderall even though it was not prescribed to her. Brie, however, never did this.
“Our generation is more prone to having ADD because of all the things that are going on with technology,” Sandridge said. “It’s so easy to be distracted and I see how people would turn to Adderall to focus.”