Study Up: How Adderall Invaded College Campuses

May 26, 2016

Keeping up with class isn’t easy, especially in college. The workloads of multiple classes will make even the most diligent students live in the library. It’s no wonder students are relying on quick fixes to boost concentration, be more efficient, and stay competitive.

To keep up, though, college students are always on the lookout for help. Coffee and Red Bull can help stave off sleep, while cheap study aids and past outlines from friends can help students make sure that no notes are missing.

Around this time of year, prescription drugs used to treat ADHD are a common study aid. Adderall is the most popular offender, but Ritalin and Vyvanse are growing in popularity as well. Some research suggests that some 30% of students use Adderall or similar drugs for nonmedical purposes - mainly, to provide the extra attention and concentration boost for focus during study time.

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Adderall is especially prevalent at the most competitive schools where the admissions standards are high. Niche recently surveyed 50,000 college students about the popularity of various drugs. They found a positive correlation between the 75th percentile ACT score for incoming students and percent of students who stated that study drugs are popular on their campus. Niche also looked at the geography of schools: 25% of students in the Midwest reported that study drugs were popular. In New England it’s 40%.

Interestingly, students who take nonprescription Adderall underperform. Many studies find that they have lower college GPAs, even when factoring in high school performance, frequency of skipping classes and number of hours spent studying.

The biggest problem seems to be the students’ sentiment when it comes to taking drugs they’re not prescribed. In 2008, a study noted that over 80% of college students didn’t think that taking Adderall was an issue. Aside from the short term negative effects it can have (increased blood pressure and rate rate as well as irregular eating and sleeping patterns), the long term issues of addiction and risks associated with putting a substance in your body that you have not been advised to take are more concerning.

According to the DEA, these drugs are actually considered Schedule II Substances, which puts them next to cocaine, morphine, and meth in the ‘high potential for abuse’ category. Side effects of Adderall are very similar to cocaine. They include heart palpitations, nervousness, restlessness, excitability, fear, anxiety, dizziness, headache, agitation, tremor, weakness, blurred vision, insomnia, dry mouth, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain nausea, vomiting, fever, hair loss, loss of appetite, weight loss.

Ultimately, Adderall (and other ADHD prescription drugs) are being used by students all over for non-medical use. Just take a look at a few tweets from students about college life and using these drugs:

Without the proper education about the negative side effects, it’s hard to say that usage will stop. At this point, though, there’s been no change in the attitude of 18-25 year olds about Adderall use.

About The Author

AdmitSee Staff
AdmitSee Staff

​We remember our frustration with applying to college and the lack of information surrounding it. So we created AdmitSee to bring much-needed transparency to the application process! Read more about the team here.




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