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The Abuse of Adderall (Blog Project) By Monisha, Kyle, and Sashwat
Ethics of Adderall
With the recent surge in illegal Adderall use by students, there has been many concerns with the ethics of illicit use. There is three ways you could look at it. One way is the way that is currently being used now, in which we say this is an illegal aid to memory, alertness, and therefore we ban it. The second way to look at it would be that we use all kinds of aids in helping us be more alert and remember better, such as coffee, which is very useful, but it is not banned. In the future, there is a likely chance that new drugs come on the market, which enable us to be much more intelligent than we are right now, so are we then going to say ” We have no interest in being smarter?”. The third was of looking at it would concern the grading of students. One group of students will be using Adderall and another won’t, so does that mean we will be wanting better performance from the group that does use it in order to get an A? Will be then be lenient with regards to the non users in terms of achieving a high mark? The ethics of the use is not black-and-white, such as its legality and risks involved.
Whenever there is a discussion of the advantages of students using Adderall, there will be without a doubt a comparison to steroids. The comparison usually forms this logic: Adderall helps to get ahead in class. Steroids allow you to get ahead in sports. Consequently, Adderall is just like a steroid, and steroids are cheating, which in turn makes Adderall bad. The problem with this argument is that sports and academics are two distinct fields. In sports, the outcome of the match only matters to the players and those directly associated with them.
However, cognitive enhancement is different in that it is not a zero-sum game. If a student uses Adderall to further his education, that in no way affects any other student. Furthermore, when discussing research, using cognitive enhancements to develop a breakthrough in cancer research is beneficial to society, unlike when athletes use steroids in a selfish attempt to improve their own statistics. The use of Adderall in research could benefit all of mankind.
However, there is still some issues of fairness that arises when discussing the use of Adderall in university. The reason for this is that students are usually not marked in vacuum, but on a curve, so if a student uses the drug to get ahead of her classmates, it will directly affect the whole class. An easy solution to this would be to legalize the use of Adderall and let all student takes it. However, that leads to another issue of fairness, in that drugs are expensive, and the legalization of Adderall will turn into a socioeconomic problem. Wealthy student would be able to purchase more of the drug than poorer students, as a result further widening the gap between the wealth and the non-wealthy students.
How does Adderall work?
The drug is a combination of two stereoisomers of amphetamine, which is a stimulant, and related to street drugs such as methamphetamine and ecstasy. The chemical structure of Adderall is close to that of family of neurotransmitters called catecholamine, which includes dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Adderall’s similarity to these brain chemicals allows it to mimic the same actions.
The catecholamine family functions in the area of the brain that is responsible for arousal and emotion. For example, dopamine has a crucial role in the pleasure and reward system, while norepinephrine is involved in the sympathetic nervous system, the same system that controls our “flight or fight” response. Finally epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, also partakes in the “flight or fight” response, and is involved in the rush we feel when exited or nervous.
By being a catecholamine agonist, Adderall recreates these same sensations by binding to the receptors for epinephrine in the adrenal gland, and norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. In addition, Adderall also blocks transporters the remove catecholamine to end the response, and instead allows for some reverse transport of the endogenous catecholamines out of the neuron and into the receptor so they too can bind. Adderall essentially overloads the brain with chemicals the leave us alert, ecstatic, and ready to take the day.
But, like any drugs, Adderall also has some negative side effects. By causing an intense arousal, the drug can lead to anxiety and insomnia, which has the chance to manifest into a schizophrenia like psychosis . The side effects are not only limited to the brain. Adderall can affect the body as well, causing an increase in blood pressure and an elevated heart rate. This is not good for people who already have pre-existing heart problems. Finally, like all drugs, such as caffeine, Adderall has the prospective of being addictive, which is why it is a Schedule II Controlled Substance, in the same group as opium, methamphetamine, cocaine, and oxycodone, which all have a high risk of dependence.
WHAT IS ADHD?
ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is a very common psychiatric brain disorder. It is usually diagnosed between the ages of 7 and 12. Once it has been diagnosed, there are medications (which will be discussed later) to help deal with it, but there are no found cures to get rid of it. About 50% of people loose it as they age into their adulthood, but there are no ideas as to why this happens. It affects about 6% of children and therefore 3% of adults. ADHD slows the maturation of certain parts of the brain, which help with, strategic thought, making quick decisions and of course focusing.
The symptoms first begin to show up as a child or young adolescent. When being clinically diagnosed, it is very hard to do so due to the fact that many people do not like to focus on things that bore them. It is difficult to tell whether someone is not focusing because they can’t or because they don’t want to. With that being said, some other symptoms include: loosing things, not following instructions, and not being organized. Not all of these symptoms always apply, and often times very few of them do.
There is an existing stigma that people with ADHD are less intelligent than others who do not have it. Intelligence is defined as: “1) the ability to adapt to the environment and 2) the ability to learn from previous experience.” People who have ADHD often do score lower on tests, but it has nothing to do with intelligence. It is just the fact that a test requires constant mental effort, which is something people with ADHD have trouble with. On a long test, people with ADHD are easily distracted and therefore may lose time on a test that way, or speed through questions without wanting to put in as much time and effort as someone who doesn’t have it. If tests were shorter than there would be very little difference in test scores of people with and without ADHD. When testing for ADHD, kids are given tests, which involve a wide range of problems and it is found that problems that can be answered in one step (math or patterns) are done very well, compared to longer questions (English based).
The Solutions (Drug Free)
As with many disorders, there are a multitude of ways to combat it, without the use of drugs. One simple solution is exercise. Exercising is a helpful way to help release stress physically, and to help combat ADHD. By releasing stress, kids are more likely to sit down and focus, whether it is studying or taking a test. Additionally playing sports encourages them to focus on something that they love or are passionate about, and by having this as an example, it teaches them that focusing is possible even if it is on something they don’t like as much. Additionally, there is another method to help people with ADHD focus. This is known as mindfulness based cognitive therapy. MBCT is a therapeutic way to help people with ADHD relax and focus. It focuses on being aware of their surroundings and being one with their body and mind. People who begin this meditation can begin with as little as 30 seconds per day, just sitting somewhere quiet and meditating. This can move upwards past 30 minutes, if it works. When silently meditating, it works best when the person envisions them self succeeding at something whether it is a test, presentation, or just another aspect of their life (staying organized). By imagining themself succeeding in a peaceful environment, it often actually translates to the real world.
While Adderall can be a very helpful drug to people who suffer from ADHD, it can also be quite harmful as well, especially to people who take it without having ADHD. Because Adderall is helpful when it comes to focusing, some people, who need to focus in their daily lives, take it without the need to. This is problematic because Adderall was designed for ONLY people who have ADHD, not for everyone. Unnecessarily taking Adderall is especially popular with students who are in high school or post secondary learning institutions. Adderall greatly increases the amount of time one can focus at once, and the quality of the focus. Therefore, illegal Adderall distribution and consumption is a problem, especially in high-end universities and colleges. Students, who have trouble focusing, or simply do not want to, may take Adderall to help them focus, when stuffing for a test or exam. In 2006 researches from the University of Kentucky found out that 34% of the people they interviewed admitted to illegal Adderall usage to help gain an edge in their classes. Additionally, an interview with one student, he said that Adderall not only increased the quality of his study time, but the quantity as well. He stated that he achieved the highest marks in his class and got perfect on his final exam, due to Adderall. The previous year when he hadn’t taken it, he did not achieve nearly as good results. Another study conduced by the University of Southern California stated that of the students they found taking illegal Adderall, 95% of them had simply faked the signs and symptoms in order to receive the prescription. With numbers like this it is clear that Adderall should be harder to get, and the diagnosis should be more thorough.
Abuse and Problems
If Adderall helps people with ADHD and helps people who don’t have it, isn’t it a good thing? It’s a win-win for everyone and higher test results for everyone. WRONG. Improper use of Adderall can lead to harsh side effects, which may all together counteract the improved studying. Just because it helps with studying doesn’t mean it helps with other aspects of your life as well. Improper Adderall use can lead to severe sleeping problems, including, not being able to fall asleep, not being able to stay asleep, and shortened REM cycles. This would definitely counteract better studying, and would take a toll on the body as well. Additionally, some other symptoms of Adderall abuse include: headaches, stomachaches, sweating, nausea, changes in sex drive, and as mentioned earlier, sleeping problems. Furthermore, with increased consumption of Adderall without a prescription can lead to: blurred vision, seizures, shaking limbs, and paralysis. With all these risks it is clear that Adderall is not a beneficial way to achieve higher test scores.
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