Adderall Abuse among Students

Alcohol and substance misuse and abuse affect a large percentage of US high school and college students. Alcohol abuse and illicit drug use often receive more attention, but a growing US health concern is centered on the misuse of prescription stimulant medications often prescribed for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Adderall is a schedule II amphetamine-based central nervous system stimulant. It’s typically used to treat patients with ADHD by tapping into the parts of the brain that control hyperactivity and impulses. It also improves attention and focus for some patients.

Among the college population, nonmedical use of prescription medications represents the second most common form of illicit drug use. Students like to use Adderall and stimulants like it as a study aid; use of the drug increases at midterm and end of term.

Compounding the problem of campus drug abuse is the huge concern that many young people diagnosed with ADHD may not actually have the condition or may be better treated with non-pharmaceutical, alternative therapies. A new method of testing called the quantified behavior test (Qb Test) was approved by the FDA last March; it is meant to provide a more objective measure than past ADHD testing methods. The hope is that fewer misdiagnoses will be made.

Emergency Room visits involving misuse of Adderall increased 276% from 2004-2009. Risk of overdose or addiction is equal to or greater than for cocaine, yet 8 in 10 students at state universities believe that illicit Adderall use is not dangerous or only slightly so.

With these issues at the forefront, high school and college health providers must be aware of the prevalence and seriousness of prescription stimulant misuse among US students. Appropriate education about the risks associated with use needs to be provided to all students and be an ongoing program.