If alcohol abuse represents the dark side of playing too hard, Adderall represents the dark side of working too hard. A prescription amphetamine prescribed to help kids with ADHD focus on schoolwork, its effects include dramatically increased ability to concentrate for lengthy periods of time. Those effects make it an appealing choice for students struggling with their academic load.
According to a 2013 National Public Radio report, up to 35 percent of all college students say they have used stimulant pills to improve school performance. And abuse is worse during high-stress periods. At the University of Puget Sound, a researcher analyzed the campus wastewater in 2011-12 and found that residue from the drugs increased to a level seven times higher during finals.
Adnan Amin, a psychiatrist at Spokane’s Sacred Heart Medical Center, says parents have come to him, urging him to put their non-ADHD kids on medication, which he declined to do. They may have seen another child improve with ADHD medication and want the same for their teen.
“Some of them think that it’s unfair, that another kid has medication,” says Amin. A recent New York Times article describes Adderall pills being popped open and snorted like cocaine at high-stakes private high schools.
Although Amin says in his inpatient care he sees more problems with kids addicted to opiates like Oxycontin — extremely dangerous to mix with alcohol — he says ADHD medications raise concerns as well. Like energy drinks, Adderall may dramatically mask the effects of intoxication.
“Abuse has skyrocketed… There are reported deaths because of kids underestimating the seriousness,” Amin says. “An overdose can kill you.”
For those who already have heart conditions, the drugs can be lethal. For those with bipolar disorder, using adderall may lead to aggression.