Ad(h)ditional Education


Taking a look into high school study drug usage

In the fiercely competitive world of academics, Adderall has become to learning what steroids are to athletes. Adderall increases focus, attention span and reaction time. It’s a medicine commonly prescribed to those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. However, like many medicines, it too can be abused.

“Just because something is a prescribed drug doesn’t mean it’s always safe,” physical education teacher Nate Whitney said. The use of “study drugs” such as Ritalin, Vyvanse and Adderall has been increasing rapidly in the U.S. Between 2008 and 2012, the use of ADHD medications has gone up 36 percent. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, this is partly due to the 16 percent increase of ADHD diagnoses. This has led to more students using ADHD medications recreationally, in ways not recommended by a doctor.

This behavior is extremely risky. The Drug Enforcement Agency classifies Adderall as a schedule II drug, which is the same category as cocaine, oxycodone and meth due to its potential of abuse. When prescribed to patients with ADHD, however, there is evidence of significant cognitive improvement; but many are skeptical due to its addictive nature. Now, nobody wants to talk down to anyone who needs Adderall as a medicine. Plenty of people take Adderall to improve their abilities and don’t abuse or sell their medication. When prescribing Adderall, doctors have the goal of leveling the playing field for kids with learning or attention accommodations. Although it appeals to help many, some say it provides an overwhelmingly unfair advantage.

“It’s literally cheating. You’re so much better at everything. I’m better at sports, academics, my grades improved,” senior Mike Baldwin said. The use of Adderall may not just level the playing field for some, but actually allow students to rise above others.

How common is “study drug” usage at University Prep? “Probably about 35 percent of my friends use Adderall. It’s extremely easy to get in high school,” Baldwin said. Surprisingly, according to an Upper School poll, 35.3 percent of students are either prescribed or have used the drug recreationally; almost exactly Baldwin’s estimate. “We’re seeing more wealthy schools with issues with prescription drugs.” Whitney said.

Adderall can negatively effect users. It keeps users awake for extended periods of time and also suppresses appetite. Baldwin took Adderall since the second grade, but recently stopped during sophomore year due to personal concerns when taking the drug. “I don’t eat, I don’t sleep, I get extremely irritable. It was hurting my relationships with people.” Baldwin said. Although Adderall made a significant difference regarding his academics, he believes taking a break from the drug was the right choice.

Stimulants complicate the usual dynamic of drug addiction by being squarely associated with productivity, achievement and success. No one means to get addicted, but nowadays, Adderall usage is seen almost as a benign activity for some or a productivity booster. In our culture, productivity is the most important aspect of a working citizen. So, for some, there is a significant amount of pressure to no just do well, but excel in your work.

By James Garvey