By Shannon Swenson


In times of stress when schoolwork seems to pile up, many college students find themselves wondering how they are ever going to get the work done. They become overwhelmed and find it hard to focus. Today, many students look for what they think is more effective than flash cards or a quiet library. This easy treatment is known as Adderall. In recent years, this drug, often called “the study drug” has increased in popularity, though helping average students study for an exam was not its original purpose. People who use Adderall without true need of it may face serious health and legal consequences.

Adderall is a stimulant designed to help people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, and Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD. It is geared towards boosting chemicals, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, in the brain associated with attention and behavior. People with ADHD or ADD suffer from impulse control problems, inattention, and trouble focusing, for which Adderall and other stimulants such as Ritalin have a calming effect. However, for people without ADHD or ADD, these drugs can have damaging effects(Snow et. al. 2011).

According to a 2003 study in the medical journal Addiction, 1 out of 4 college students use Adderall illegally to improve their academic performance, yet many students are ignorant or indifferent of the health risks. People who take Adderall without truly needing it have an increased risk of anxiety, high blood pressure, and even sexual impotence (Laskowski, 2010). Dr. Raymond Kotwicki, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Emory University’s school of medicine in Atlanta, says drugs like Adderall can even lead to psychosis, a mental condition that involves loss of contact with reality. Adderall also suppresses the appetite, causing students who use it to lose weight. Many users often experience bad mood swings. The drug is extremely habit forming and users of Adderall run a high risk of becoming dependent or abusive (Cooper, 2011). Dr. Anantha Shekhar, IU School of Medicine, discusses some of the dangers of Adderall on the body in a News 8 Special Report.

Dr. Shekhar emphasizes the way Adderall can push the brain and heart and its addictive quality.  Tiffany Franks has a first-hand account of how Adderall become a gateway drug to many other drugs such as cocaine or meth.  The non-prescribed use of any of these drugs is illegal.  Students have found it almost too easy to get their hands on Adderall.

Adderall is still easy to get without a prescription by buying them from other students. Many people do not realize that buying and selling Adderall is illegal and if caught, they could face serious consequences, such as expulsion. The US Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration lists Adderall as a Schedule II Drug, along with cocaine and PCP. Selling or using a Schedule II Drug is a state and federal crime(“Controlled Substance Schedules” 2013). Students have reported that they have bought Adderall for $5 for a 20-milligram pill from other students who have Adderall prescriptions. Some students have admitted to faking the symptoms of ADD and ADHD to get their own prescription. One student claimed that after getting a prescription, he experienced mood swings from taking the pill too often. He then began selling the extra pills to other students for $10 to $30 a pill. Little did he know, one of his buyers was an undercover cop. He and a few other students were arrested and had to complete 300 hours of community service, jeopardizing their academic careers (Snow et al. 2011).

Fox 6 News with Brian Polcyn investigates the use of Adderall on campus by interviewing students about it and uncovering how easy it is to get Adderall and reports the legal consequences of Adderall use.

Students are aware of the helpful nature of Adderall and recognize it as a common study aid.  One student even describes it as “appealing.”  Many students have found themselves in legal trouble because of it.  They did not realize at the time that taking a simple pill would change their lives.

Despite these risks, college students continue to use Adderall. It has been described as an academic steroid. Students who have taken it claim that they could focus much better and for longer periods of time. They could power through their work, absorbing all the information and understanding more concepts. They treated it like their daily dose of energy, like coffee, taken as casually as a piece of candy. Doctors say students who worry about losing focus should try other methods. They recommend drinking plenty of water, taking short breaks, exercising, or other stimulants such as coffee (Laskowski, 2010).

In a society where a simple pill seems like an easy, available fix for stress and focus, any number of health or legal consequences may not stop students from using this study drug. Although they may adopt other stress-relief methods, Adderall may still be worth the risk on the most overwhelming days. Some doctors believe that cognitive enhancement drugs should be legalized and made available for academic use (Cooper, 2011). However, the health risks of this drug are an issue of which many users are unaware. The long-term effects of the drug on the brain are not worth the few hours of focus it provides. It is difficult to determine how popular this trend will become before students realize they could do without it.

“Controlled Substance Schedules.” DEA Diversion Control. Drug Enforcement Administration, n.d. 10 Apr. 2013.

Laskowski, Amy. “The Perils of Adderall.” BU Today RSS. Boston University, 9 Dec. 2010. 10 Apr. 2013.

Snow, Kate, Deirdre Cohen, Sarah Koch, and Nina Tyler. “Latest Videos.” Rock Center. NBC News, 16 Oct. 2012. 10 Apr. 2013.

Cooper, Aaron. “College Students Take ADHD Drugs for Better Grades.” CNN Health. CNN, 01 Sept. 2011. 10 Apr. 2013.



Adam Crowe.

Psychology in Action.