College students are notorious for spending late nights in the library, whether it’s cramming during finals time or finishing homework for an early morning class. Night after night, many strain for ways to keep themselves going – and some have pushed aside the coffee, Red Bull and midday naps for a more serious way to focus.

Adderall, a drug prescribed to those diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, has become a more common study tool amongst university students over the past years due to its concentration-enhancing effects, even on those without ADHD.

The Food and Drug Administration places Adderall under a Schedule II pharmaceutical amphetamine and compares it to opium, cocaine, morphine, methadone and methamphetamines, due to its dangerous and highly addictive qualities.

“Adderall is a mixture of amphetamines, which are very potent central nervous system stimulants,” said Kenneth Kellar, professor and vice chair of the Department of Pharmacology at Georgetown. “They are used in people with ADHD because they help to focus one’s attention both intellectually and physically. … The stimulant effects in people who do not have ADHD are similar, including temporarily increased drive and motivation.”

According to the most recent studies conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, the use of Adderall by non-prescribed students during the past decades has drastically increased.

“Between 1993 and 2005, the proportion of students reporting current [past 30 days] . abuse of prescription stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall was up 93.3 percent,” said Susan Foster, CASA’s vice president and director of policy research and analysis. “Rates of all forms of prescription drug abuse among college students now surpass the rates of all forms of illicit drug use (cocaine, ecstasy, inhalants, LSD, methamphetamine and heroin) except marijuana.”

At Georgetown, the number of students using non-prescribed Adderall remains unknown, as both the Student Health Center and Counseling and Psychiatric Service at Georgetown were unable to provide any statistics on student use or treatment.

The consequences of such use, though, by non-prescribed users can be just as serious as those caused by the use of illegal drugs.

“The problem becomes one of excess, since when used recreationally, doses are almost invariably escalated and the result is abuse of the drug,” Kellar said.

CAPS director Philip Meilman said that the harmful effects of taking Adderall without a prescription far outweigh its short-term boost in concentration and focus.

“[The] most dangerous risk is sudden death that can occur even at normal doses if someone has a structural heart defect,” he said. “It can trigger psychosis. This can be because of an underlying disorder, or if it is used in high doses. This can also be problematic if someone uses Adderall to stay awake for extended periods.”

At Georgetown, several students who do not have a prescription for Adderall said they gain access to the drug through friends with prescriptions. Several said they began to use it in order to take advantage of the concentration boost it provides.

Gerald, a student who was granted use of a pseudonym because of the sensitive nature of the subject, said he has used it numerous times without a prescription and plans to continue this practice in the future.

“I have used it four times this semester. I only used it for big tests or big assignments,” he said. “I took it everyday of finals last semester basically. It made me want to study, concentrate and read a lot. . It gives you an edge on your work, no question. I absolutely believe I will use it again.”

Another student, Joey, who was also granted use of a pseudonym, has taken non-prescribed Adderall three times in the past to complete academic work.

“I used it when I had a lot of work built up,” Joey said. “It helped me to get it all done.”

Joey said the drug allows him to quicken his pace when studying for a test.

“I am a very slow reader, and usually that is not an issue. But when I have a lot to do, it helps be finish in less amount of time. It allows me to focus in on the reading,” he said. “Usually people read a paragraph and have to go back to reread it. When on Adderall, that doesn’t happen.”

According to Gerald, after using Adderall, it is much harder for him to fall asleep at night, but this is not enough to stop him from using it. He added that he believes use at Georgetown has become widespread.

“I can’t really think of a friend who doesn’t use it,” he said. “I think all of us have a little ADD. Like where do you draw the line for who needs it and who doesn’t? When is it considered ADD and when is it not? I don’t think it is a quantifiable disease.”

Another student granted anonymity, Charles, said part of the reason he uses the drug is to stay competitive with other using students.

“My standpoint is that I do not agree with the use of Adderall in general as a drug, but at the same time, since it is out there, I will take advantage of it to get ahead,” he said. “I would be fine if it didn’t exist, but since it does, I am going to use it.”

At Georgetown, though, James Marsh, director of student affairs, said that the health center would take a case of non-prescribed Adderall use very seriously.

“If a student did come to the health center presenting in an acute situation such as an Adderall overdose, we of course would take them to the [Georgetown University Hospital] Emergency Department for monitoring and treatment,” he said.

The use of Adderall by those who are not prescribed is illegal across the United States. The Encyclopedia of Drugs and Addictive Substances said that it is regulated under federal laws and the possession of non-prescribed Adderall can result in imprisonment and fines. Those convicted for selling or giving away Adderall can also face imprisonment and fines up to $2 million.

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