The ‘Adderall Advantage’


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During finals week, the abbreviation AA takes on a new meaning on college campuses: Adderall Advantage.

When the dreaded week finally rolls around, many students flock to such pills as Adderall — especially those craving an extra energy boost, improved memory, and prolonged attentiveness.

But there are problems.

Amphetamines and other “study drugs” have a high risk of dependency among users; the drug can be easily abused. Blood pressure rises. Appetite is diminished. Slight dehydration is common.

But take a look at the issue in a broader cultural context.

These drugs are only offered by prescription, criminalizing — to the extent of a felony — those who purchase it illegitimately. On top of that, non-prescribed users are often accused of cheating.

When it comes down to it, it is up to the student to prepare for an exam or to finish a paper on time.

But we all know how college life is: jam-packed. Even if you’re not normally an Adderall user, the pill has curious appeal for the normal student.

So when you find yourself caught in an academic bind, you are presented with a problem: Do I take the pill, possibly commit a crime, suffer from cotton mouth, and likely improve my chances of receiving a grade near the top of the class? Or do I sympathize with those who may not have access to the pill, avoid possible accusations of cutting corners, and risk failing tomorrow’s exam?

It’s a clear moral conundrum.

I first tried Adderall my freshman year and immediately noticed its positive effects. Though I spent some of the night smoking cigarettes outside Slater Hall, the pill fueled my ride from the first macroeconomics lecture notes of the year to the last question on the midterm. When I popped the pill, I was utterly clueless on the subject. But with its help, I earned a B+.

I didn’t consider myself a criminal. I wasn’t harming anyone. I wasn’t disturbing the peace. I was just being studious — more studious than I had ever been.

I didn’t consider myself a cheater. I put in the 10 or more hours necessary to memorize the ins and outs of the supply and demand curves. I didn’t creep over the shoulder of my neighbor to peek at a page of multiple-choice answers. One could argue I was leveling the playing field.

And I’m not alone in my use of the drug.

Full-time college students ages 18-22 are twice as likely to use Adderall non-medically than part-time college students and nonstudents of the same age, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Office of Applied Studies. More than 6 percent of full-time college students used the drug without a prescription, the same study found.

I don’t usually take medicine. I even avoid curing hangovers with Advil or any other chemical concoction. But when I went home for winter break that year, I went to the doctor for an evaluation and received a prescription for Vyvanse, essentially a newer version of Adderall.

Study drugs are not for everyone. Because of health risks, some people cannot take the pills. Others find the pill’s effects overwhelming. And for most, it’s a simple desire to conquer tasks without any aid.

But the ADHD market is valued at $4.5 billion in the United States alone, and it is still growing.

More and more people find themselves suffering symptoms of such disorders. More and more people are being prescribed the drugs.

To discredit a student’s academic performance is absurd. To suffer non-medical consequences beyond a slap on the wrist is overbearing.

Despite my struggle to study for adequate lengths of time — and despite having two family members diagnosed with ADD and ADHD — I was always encouraged to stay away from such pills.

I guess sometimes you have to ignore what you’re told to know what’s truly best for you.

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