Across the nation, college students are becoming addicted to a popular prescription drug used to help them excel in school. Florida A&M and surrounding colleges are not exempt from this list as students have easy access to, and often misuse, Adderall, a drug designed to help individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) .
Zareh Hadden, 20, a second-year English education student at Tallahassee Community College, became acquainted with the drug last year before a big exam.
“It works wonders,” Hadden said. “It makes life easier so that you can tackle things. It eliminates distractions and I came to find out that you can use that same concentration on anything, not just studying.”
Due to its high potential for abuse, Adderall is a federally controlled substance. As an amphetamine, this drug releases stimulant medication immediately consumption. Adderall is often taken two to three times a day with
effects lasting 4 to 6 hours, while Adderall XR is a once-a-day medication and may remain effective for up to 12 hours.
Adderall helps some students focus on learning material, stay up all night and to perform well on examinations.
Hadden added, “It made me really social, talkative, kind of peppy. You can go out and be so confident in yourself.”
The only negative that Hadden mentioned was that “the drug makes your penis like really small.”
In addition to de-creased genital size, the medication may cause severe medical issues like seizures, heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes and even death. Those who have not been prescribed Adderall have a higher risk of experiencing side effects. This experience is normal, according to Walgreens pharmacy technician
intern Jessica Thornton.
“I haven’t had any bad experiences so far,” said Hadden. “It does make me more hyper, and I laugh a lot more when I’m on them. I get a lot more zoned and sometimes it can be scary.”
“I don’t hear too many cases where patients have experienced negative effects from taking Adderall,”
Thornton said. “Even still, it is a stimulant that increases the heart rate, and it can cause medical problems. More than anything, people who don’t need it can fall into a psychological dependency to it and can die.”
Despite the possibility of death, countless students say the positive results outweigh the negative, and they will go on a mission to obtain the tiny white tablets some like to call the “smart drug.”
Students feign ADHD to obtain the drug and many believe that going to Sunshine Manor Counseling Services at FAMU and complaining of problems focusing guarantees a prescription for the drug almost immediately.
According to Sunshine Manor Director Yolanda Bogan, getting prescribed
for the drug is not as simple as some students think. “Some students come in saying they have ADHD, but when we tell them what they have to do in order to get prescribed for the medication, they don’t come back,” Bogan said.
“In order for our psychiatrists to prescribe the medication to students we do an interview, we get a history from a family member and we claim any kind of documentation regarding the student’s past medical history,” said Bogan. “We also get information from a teacher, and later, the student has to get a physical exam and an EKG, which means they have to go to student health services.”
Bogan said she assumes students would seek help from their physicians at home or in the Tallahassee community. Instead of making strides to obtain a legitimate prescription, some students simply decide to buy Adderall from people with the prescription, at typically $5 per pill.
Hadden has bought the drug from about six different people at school and said he usually pays between $3 to $5 per pill, or $60 for a bulk of 20. When asked what he would do if caught with the drug without a prescription, Hadden said, “I would regret getting caught and not having a prescription, but I would probably do it again.”
Adderall abuse is punishable by law.
A schedule 2 drug, mere possession of less than one milligram is a felony, which is punishable by up to two years in a state jail facility, but no less than 180 days. The maximum penalty for possession of more than four milligrams of Adderall is two to 20 years in state prison and a fine of $10,000.
The maximum penalty for giving someone more than four milligrams of Adderall is even longer: five to 99 years in state prison and a fine of $10,000. The smallest pill available is five milligrams. Though there are legal consequences, students like Hadden are not deterred and they continue to flood pharmacies to refill
prescriptions. Due to the high demand of Adderall in the area, many establishments frequently experience a shortage in the drug.
“The biggest issue is that people are able to get it so frequently,” said Thornton, who has worked at Walgreens for more than a year. “Everybody gets the drug on an allowance-type basis, so it’s common for us and other pharmacies to quickly run out of it.”
Unfortunately the shortage affects those patients who legitimately rely on the drug.
Reynauld Taylor, a parent of a fourth-grade student at FAMU Developmental Research School, said his son was diagnosed with ADHD a few months ago and described getting his medicine as “hit-and-miss.”
“I know it’s a popular drug, but it still shocks me that sometimes I have to go all the way out of the city just to find and pick up his meds,” Taylor said. “He really does need them and I think it’s unfortunate that people who don’t need them take them away from those who do. It’s not right.”
Krystal Wilson, a senior business administration student, agrees. “It’s too bad that students only think they can do well in school if they get on drugs,” Wilson said. “Instead of risking your life why not just study?”