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A Match Made in College: Adderall and Struggling Students

Maybe tomorrow you’ll look so tired that a friend will offer you Adderall, and you’ll take it.

It’s 2:00 a.m. and, as a college student, you’ve just started the English Literature paper due tomorrow because you couldn’t focus throughout the day, there was too much work to do. You had to attend all your classes, go to the party everyone has been talking about, plan your Economics group project with random people, eat out with your friends, and do a million small assignments when you got back to your dorm at 10:00 p.m. You haven’t gotten a full night of sleep since midterms started. Maybe tomorrow you’ll look so tired that a friend will offer you Adderall, and you’ll take it. It’s a prescription drug, right? Kids with ADHD take it and all it does is make you focused and alert, so there’s really no harm in using a boost just this once, right? Wrong. Many American college students have almost forgotten that Adderall is a serious and addictive drug that you shouldn’t take without a prescription, and it’s because of the increasing and detrimental amount of stress that American society puts on young adults.

Adderall seems like the glorious solution to many college students, and 60 percent of nonmedical Adderall use is among 18-to-25-year-olds (1). It’s the miracle that will make you focused enough to complete that English Literature paper in an hour as soon as you’re done with classes, finish the Economics project by yourself before the group even meets, and have extra time to go to the party and still complete more work later without getting tired. This type of behavior is demanded from American children from the moment we enter high school. To get into good colleges, adults encourage us to achieve perfect grades and test scores, play sports, play an instrument, have a distinct passion that we choose as children, start a club, have a job, and get a special internship. This pressure doesn’t stop in college when we’re encouraged to achieve good grades, get involved in extracurriculars, have a social life, get summer internships, and sleep enough. This constant societal pressure leads college students to Adderall, and it’s why yearly Adderall prescriptions tripled to 16 million from 2008 to 2012 (2). College students are two times more likely to use Adderall than peers who aren’t in college, and Adderall, taking on names like “Addy” and “pep pills,” has become seemingly mandatory to some high-achieving students (2).

Adderall is increasingly used to go on study-binges or to focus on important tests and many students are ignoring that it’s a serious drug with serious health risks. Dextroamphetamine-amphetamine, or Adderall, can cause high blood pressure and strokes, and it can increase the probability of developing mental health problems like depression, bipolar disorder, and aggression (1). Frequent Adderall use can also cause difficulty breathing, rashes, hives, an irregular heartbeat, comas, sexual dysfunction, and nausea (3). Many college students using Adderall even display symptoms of serious addiction to the drug, like feeling mentally foggy when not using, stealing pills, losing interest in friends or social activities, and lying about Adderall use (3). Faking symptoms to get diagnosed with ADHD is common, and it’s easy to get the pills from already diagnosed friends or roommates, who sometimes don’t even realize that they’re technically dealing drugs (3). Adderall is so dangerous that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually put a black-box warning on it, but college students are so worried about maintaining performance and staying focused that they’re ignoring serious health consequences (1).

So, to high school students getting ready to enter college: I don’t want to be that stereotypical person who repeats “don’t do drugs” with no solution, but please don’t take Adderall without a serious ADHD prescription. Remember that societal pressures usually aren’t valid. Your health is more important than your grades, so maybe just skip the party. If you can’t get all your work done, try scheduling time with a campus advisor or counselor instead of abusing a drug that could damage your future success.


(1) Desmon-Jhu, Stephanie. “More College Students are Using Adderall to Stay Up and Study.” Futurity, Accessed 4 November 2018.

(2) “Adderall Addiction and Abuse.” AddictionCenter, 26 Sept. 2018,

(3) “Adderall Abuse Among College Students.” Desert Cove Recovery, Accessed 4 November 2018.

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