Adderall Use in College Students

1598 words (6 pages) Essay

26th Feb 2019 Education Reference this


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The stress and demand of college on students only seems to be increasing with little ways to cope. Some can’t cope with it and drop out, others struggle through it giving what they can, for some others though, they rely on neuro-enhancing drugs to increase the brains capability to focus and perform. Adderall is a common drug found in this use, along with many others, and it is a legal prescription drug subscribed for ADHD. It enhances the processing speed and energy levels of the user, the defining reason it is helpful to college students.

However helpful it may be considered, there are health risks that come from taking adderall. Margaret Talbot, a writer of The New Yorker, reports, “Drugs such as adderall can cause nervousness, headaches, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, among other side effects.”(654) While headaches and sleeplessness are common, the list only grows with concerning problems. Talbot continues to list risks, noting, “The label (an FDA warning) also mentions that adults using Adderall have reported serious cardiac problems…”(654). So along with even mild health risks, larger ones have been reported and are acknowledged by the Food and Drug Administration. Along with risks follows consequences of using Adderall, as reported in a 2011 study, “These consequences include suicidal and homicidal ideation, seizure, and various cardiac complications, such as hypertension, hypotension, tachycardia, palpitations, and dsyrhythmias.”(Jardin, Looby, Earleywine, 1) Therefore, the misuse of Adderall extends greatly beyond health risks, to loss of life consequences.

Another form of health risk, mental rather than psycho-somatic, is the addiction side of the drug and the ignorance of its health risks. Though users view it to be harmless, “a professor at the university of Michigan’s Substance Abuse and Research Center, reported that in the previous year 4.1 percent os American undergraduates had taken prescription stimulants for off-label use.”(Talbot, 654) That means a general 4.1 percent of American undergraduates abused the prescription drug for purposes other than it should be used. According to Talbot, some other schools reported, “the figure was 25 percent”, a significantly higher percentage, and “ A 2002 study at a small college found that more than 35 percent of the students had used prescription stimulants non medically in the previous year”(654). These numbers are far apart, but still numbers to be looked at in order notice signs of addiction. “An FDA warning on Adderall’s label notes that “amphetamines have a high potential for abuse and can lead to dependence”(Talbot, 654). Once again, a health concern is

FDA recognized with the use of Adderall, “Yet college students tend to consider Adderall and Ritalin benign, in part because they are likely to know peers who have taken the drugs since childhood for ADHD.”(Talbot, 654) If it seems harmless to them, how can it be harmful to you, right? Adderall and drugs like it are prescribed for the specific use to help ADHD, for effects we have yet to understand. Despite this, the results of an online public poll published by Nature, reported that, “69 percent said that mild side effects were an acceptable risk.”(Talbot, 655) Debatably, the mild risks may be acceptable, but what is to be said about the life threatening risks.

While they are harmful, it is hardly reported to not be effective. Alex (a Harvard graduate) put it, “Productivity is a good thing”(Talbot, 655). Adderall and drugs like it are commonly identified as neuroenhancers because of they fact that they are supposed to help with productivity and focus. Alex has also stated though, “it only works as a cognitive enhancer insofar as you are dedicated to accomplishing the task at hand”(Talbot, 655), so it is not just like they can be taken and automatically help. Alex elaborates, “The number of times I’ve taken Adderall late at night and decided that, rather than starting my paper, hey, I’ll organize my entire music library!”(Talbot, 655) Alex claims, “I’ve looked back at my papers I’ve written on Adderall, and they’re verbose” and, “with Adderall I’d produce two pages on something that could be said in a couple of sentences”(Talbot, 655). So while they may help productivity, they don’t increase ability to write well. A “transhumanist” named Seltzer uses, “a drug called piracetam”(Talbot, 656), which is, not approved for any use by the FDA”(Talbot, 656). Upon interview, “I asked Seltzer if he thought he should wait for scientific ratification of piracetam. He laughed. “ I don’t want to,” he said, “Because it’s working”(Talbot , 659). Users report despite the known and unknown risks and design of the drug on the human body and mind, they don’t care as long as it is productive and working. This begs a further question, is it worth banning if people will continue to use it anyways?

Though it has such consequences, why hasn’t it been banned. According to Talbot, “It makes no sense to ban the use of neuroenhancers. Too many people are already taking them, and the user’s them to be educate damd privileged peopler who proceed with just enough caution to avoid getting into trouble.”(659) Talbot makes a point, just like illegal drug trades, people like them, and will likely continue using them. Furthermore, Talbot’s generalization “the users tend to be educated and privileged…with just enough caution to avoid getting into trouble”(659) leads to another point; it is the user’s decision. Talbot claims “They can make their own choices about how to alter their minds, just as they can make their own decisions about shaping their bodies.” It is the choice and accepted risk of the user to take neuroenhancing drugs, just like smoking and drinking, they have to take all responsibility for the consequences and products. Seltzer believed using neuroenhancers, “ is like customizing yourself-customizing your brain” (Talbot, 657). In the developing society, it is considered important to let individuals express how they feel, even if it means changing something about them. Socially, using neuroenhancers to develop ones mind in a way they want, may not be looked negatively upon. However, this can lead to professional complications.

Use of Adderall in a college setting brings up complications with competition and grades. Some students on, “The BoredAt Web Sites”(Talbot, 655), present concerns with, “Occasional dissents (I think there should be random drug testing at every exam)” Considering the performance and focus boost neuroenhancers can provide, this can give a helping hand to studying. While some students use neuroenhancers to get ahead, that leaves the other students at a disadvantage, similar to athletes who dope to get ahead, a newer concept-“brain doping”(Talbot, 659). And just like sports, College is also competitive, especially focusing at high professionalism doctorate programs, where the best of the best are picked.

While banning the use of neuroenhancers may seem like a good idea, the user will not care about if they are banned or not, the problem will still stay present.  Talbot spoke to Alex again, saying “he had gone back to taking Adderall-a small dose every day. He felt that he was learning to use the drug in a more “disciplined” manner.”(660) It appeared to yield results in a change of mentality and use, as Alex stated, “it was less about staying up late to finish homework he should have done earlier, and more “about staying focussed on work, which makes me want to work longer hours.” The use itself of adderall isn’t necessarily that bad part, as it it the misuse for inappropriate reasons to either get ahead or do what should have been done. For Alex, it boiled down to his concept of use, he controlled his use of Adderall to improve his work ethic, rather than to demoralize it’s use for better grades and lack of a work ethic to begin with. Neurohancers don’t need to be banned, but rather people need to be educated on the effects and consequences of it, so they can learn to control it in Alex’s “disciplined manner”(Talbot, 660). The drug itself is not the problem, but the misuse and lack of understanding on it’s use. While banning it is pointless, controlling it, and how people ethically use it should be the point of focus moving on. 

Works Cited

Jardin, Bianca, et al. “Characteristics of College Students with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity                Disorder Symptoms Who Misuse Their Medications.” Journal of American College Health, vol. 59, no. 5, Apr/May2011, pp. 373-377. EBSCOhost, doi:                                              10.1080/07448481.2010.513073

McCabe, Sean Esteban, et al. “Non-Medical Use of Prescription Stimulants among US College                Students: Prevalence and Correlates from a National Survey.” Addiction, vol. 100, no. 1, Jan. 2005, pp. 96-106. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2005.00944.x

Talbot, Margaret. “Brain Gain: The Underground World of “Neuroenhancing” Drugs.” The New             Yorker, web, 19 June 2017,

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