Adderall use rises during finals despite national shortage

By Gus Bode

As pharmacies nationwide experience a shortage of Adderall, many believe the issue lies within distribution rather than production.

Around 15 million people are thought to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a majority of which take Adderall, an amphetamine, to treat it. While Adderall may be scarce in pharmacies, it has become more available illegally on college campuses, particularly during the week of finals.

According to a Washington Post article, college students have illegally taken prescription stimulants such as Concerta, Ritalin and Adderall for more than two decades to help them stay up late and study.


In fall 2011, five percent of incoming freshmen nationally have ADHD, according to the Higher Education Research Institute, and sales of the drug have nearly doubled since 2006. Some SIUC students say they use Adderall because it helps them focus, study and complete assignments.

Josh Chady, of Benton, fills prescriptions Tuesday at the Kroger Pharmacy in Murphysboro. According to National Public Radio, the Drug Enforcement Administration said while there is no shortage of prescription drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder such as Adderall, there is a distribution problem. Lynnette oostmeyer | Daily Egyptian

Although she doesn’t have a prescription, Veronica, a freshman from Rolling Meadows studying social work, who requested to use a fictitious name because of the nature of the article, said she plans on taking the drug every day during finals.

She said she does not worry about its side effects.

“If my worst side effect is chapped lips, then I’m not too worried. I might rely on it to get me through tough projects, but I’m not completely dependent on it,” Veronica said.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a not-for-profit medical practice and research group, common side effects from taking Adderall that may require medical attention  include bladder pain, bloody or cloudy urine, fast-pounding or irregular heartbeat, frequent urges to urinate and lower back pain. Less common side effects include cold symptoms, cough and fever or chills.

Leyra Imundo, a freshman from Kennesaw, Ga., studying event planning, said she has a prescription for Focalin, an extended-release drug used to treat ADHD.


She said  she knows many students without a prescription who abuse the drug and many of her friends have tried to obtain it from her during finals, but Imundo said she feels uncomfortable distributing it.

“It’s almost as if using Adderall to study has become an acceptable part of college culture,” she said. “Many people don’t associate the negative aspects of drug abuse with Adderall and other similar drugs because they produce mostly positive results.”

Veronica said she has been around Adderall her entire life and never felt the need to use it before she came to SIUC.

“Several members of my family have ADHD. Ever since I can remember there has been a large jar of Adderall in my kitchen,” she said. “I had never even touched it before I came to college, but I saw that pretty much all of my friends were using it and it seemed to work for them, so when I went home over Labor Day weekend I brought 10 of the pills back with me.”

Veronica said she has taken more than 50 Adderall pills from her family’s stockpile since September.

“I just feel good when I take them. I become focused and productive and they make it much easier for me to work on papers and projects,” Veronica said. “It might just be a placebo effect, but it works for me and that’s all that matters.”

Many students do not consider the serious side effects of misusing the drug. The DEA considers Adderall as a schedule II drug, which means it has a high potential for physical and mental abuse, and according to a Washington Post article, it can be just as addictive as cocaine. Other harmful effects of misusing prescription stimulants are  irregular heart beat, panic attacks, and in rare cases, death, especially when mixed with alcohol or other drugs.

But Veronica said she thinks the drug should be more accessible to students.

“I think there should be more testing for ADHD, especially on college campuses,” she said. “ I honestly don’t know anyone who doesn’t use it, and if it makes them do better in school then why should they stop?”

Rusty, a senior from Belleville studying cinema and photography, who also chose to use a fictitious name, said he, too, advocates the use of Adderall.

“In a perfect world, we should be able to walk into a doctor’s office and gain a prescription based on our reaction to the medication, not on if we qualify,” he said.

Rusty said he has been using Adderall for the last five years. He said he first tried the drug to study for his ACT and has consistently used it since. Rusty said his Adderall source comes from two other students who have prescriptions and sell the pills.

“It’s funny to think of it in terms of a drug deal because to me, it’s not a drug. It’s just something that helps me focus,”  he said.

Rusty said using drugs like Adderall has become a normal part of being in college.

“I wouldn’t consider students using Adderall to be abusers. It’s a helpful tool for studying, like a computer,” he said.

Representatives from the Wellness Center refused to comment on Adderall abuse and its effects at the university.