Drugs for Diplomas: Identifying the Issue

Drugs for Diplomas

The drug most commonly know as Adderall is a prescription drug that acts as a stimulant and is commonly used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  The stimulant is very popular in the academic field, deeming it the Academic Steroid. Although college students may claim that Adderall’s benefits outweigh the risks, the abuse of the drug needs to be controlled because it opens youths to addiction and psychological damage. If this were to remain unaddressed, society could see an incapable workforce.  

Why is Adderall and its relatives (Ritalin) so popular among college students? Adderall is abused by college students to perform better in classes and to aid them in receiving high grades on exams. The drug helps abusers to “stay awake, focus and study before a big exam”(Aberg).“Some students claim that Adderall makes them more talkative and better company”(Aberg). Others use the drug to get high or to lose weight. Its popularity is further boosted because of the lack of enforcement against its distribution. As stated by Simon Essig Aberg, “ these drugs are Schedule II drugs, meaning the Drug Enforcement Agency has labelled it highly addictive. The minimum sentence for distributing … Adderall is five years in prison. Very few students are aware of this and it is not commonly enforced”(Aberg). 

Where are students getting these stimulants? Students ask their fellow classmates who have been diagnosed with ADHD to provide the drug. Some students even make a business out of this, selling their prescription doses to desperate classmates looking for an edge. Lastly, the diagnosis of ADHD is flawed. Therapists have been found to incorrectly diagnose children with ADHD based on biases. On a recent study regarding an experiment where therapists were given pre-diagnosed groups of children to diagnose for themselves, one of the conclusions was “that overdiagnosis of ADHD occurs in clinical routine and that the patient’s gender influences diagnosis considerably”(Bruchmüller, Jürgen; Schneider). In addition to this, it is generally more appealing to medicate a restless child than to take the time to support his/her development with this condition in mind. My nephew was recently diagnosed with ADHD and medication was the first topic that was brought up in light of this new development. The combination of false diagnoses and the appeal of medication, Adderall and similar drugs become high in demand and high in production.    

Continuous use of Adderall can have adverse effects on the abuser. As mentioned before, Adderall is highly addictive and the very nature of the education system encourages continued use. It should be noted that Adderall does not increase the intelligence of the user and is used to help students stay alert and focused when studying. However, because tests are such a common occurrence in the college life, an individual can find himself taking a dose of the drug at least once a week. If the user is really hooked on the stimulant, a larger dose may be taken before midterms and finals. After the academic year has closed, abusers may seek to cease the ingestion of Adderall. This is where the body begins to display symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms include: fatigue, depression, confusion, anxiety attacks, and hunger disorders. Adderall user, Kate Miller describes her withdrawal after quitting the drug:

In the months that followed, I was exhausted all the time. I slept through appointments and was unable to stay up to meet deadlines.The drug had curbed my appetite, and helped me to drop from a size 8 to a 4. Without it now I was ravenous and neurotic about what I was eating and how I looked.I was sensitive and emotional from the new chemical imbalance, which gaining weight and falling behind at work exacerbated.It was hard to understand that I was experiencing withdrawal, because I was never warned of possible side effects.Without the drug I felt stupid, unable to focus or follow a thought through to completion.I was shy, and unwilling to initiate conversation. The witty, articulate woman I once was seemed to no longer exist.(Miller)

Would students choose to deal with these symptoms as they recovered from Adderall addiction or would they circumvent the pain by taking the drug again? Could we see our future work force become thousands of Kate’s? Adderall would no longer be used for academic purposes but would be taken just so the user can feel normal again.

Adderall is similar to anabolic steroids in that they both provide performance boosts and their continuous use leads to the development of harmful side effects. Why is it that measures against the illegal distribution of Adderall are not enforced as strictly. Perhaps we are heading towards a society where academic success is not measured by the ability of the human mind but rather our dependency on chemicals made in a lab.  


“Adderall Withdrawal: What It REALLY Feels Like.” Adderall Addiction Support. N.p., 17 June 2016. Web. 15 Mar. 2017. <http://adderalladdictionsupport.com/adderall-withdrawal-symptoms/>.

Aberg, Simon Essig. “”Study Drug” Abuse by College Students.” National Center For Health Research. National Center for Health Research, 27 Feb. 2017. Web. 15 Mar. 2017. <http://center4research.org/child-teen-health/hyperactivity-and-adhd/study-drug-abuse-college-students/>.

Bruchmüller, Katrin; Margraf, Jürgen; Schneider, Silvia. “Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology”, Vol 80(1), Feb 2012, 128-138.

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