Thirty-two percent of people have taken psycho stimulants such as Adderall without a prescription, while only 13 percent are prescribed, according to information taken from an online poll of 10,298 people conducted through The Plainsman Web site.
“Hearing those results, that is almost half of the student body taking psycho stimulants,” said Ray Lorenz, assistant clinical professor at Auburn’s Harrison School of Pharmacy. “My first question is ‘Where are they getting them from?'”
Most students don’t seem to be having much difficulty acquiring Adderall, said Doug Hankes, director of Auburn Student Counseling Services.
“There is a lot of sharing of medication,” Hankes said.
One Adderall dose costs about $5, which makes it affordable to students. However, there are other ways of paying for it.
“I may have traded it for beer before,” said Kevin, a sophomore in mechanical engineering.
Adderall is not necessarily viewed as a gateway drug, Lorenz said.
However, the high cost of other drugs may make them a gateway to Adderall.
“I knew a coke addict,” said Alexis, a sophomore in marketing, “She switched to Adderall, because it does the same stuff and is so much more affordable.”
The drug, an amphetamine, is prescribed for Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder. It works by raising levels of certain chemicals in the brain, allowing the user to focus, while ignoring the body’s signs of hunger or fatigue.
Side effects of the drug may cause people to be “jittery” or paranoid.
However, the drug is not without health consequences. Over an extended period of use, those who take it may suffer weight loss or become addicted.
“I think it is extremely useful,” said Stuart, a senior in forestry and wildlife sciences, “but that is a bad thing because it is pretty addictive too.”
The most serious long-term side effect is chemical dependence, Lorenzesaid.
Chemical dependence occurs when the brain depletes the chemicals used to focus on a task. It then becomes reliant on Adderall to raise those chemical levels back to normal, Lorenz said.
Hankes said he used to work with an individual who used AD/HD medication he bought from people to help him focus.
“By the end of their career, they felt they could not create or be creative without taking the mediation,” Hankes said.
One reason some students are so keen to use Adderall is the pressure associated with college.
“It’s a lot easier to get out of bed in the morning knowing you can pop a pill and are hot-to-trot and do something,” Stuart said
Use of psycho stimulants is nothing new, as it has been common on college campuses for years, said Gordon Sacks, department head for Auburn’s Harrison School of Pharmacy.
“When I was a student here 20 years ago, people used NoDoz, which is essentially coffee in a pill,” Sacks said.
However, despite its popularity, some say students may not be completely aware what exactly they are getting themselves into.
“I think it is a misperception among college students that it is not a drug, and it really is a drug,” Lorenz said.
This article was originally published in The Auburn Plainsman on 10/15/2009.