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Adderall Abuse on College Campuses: Everything You Need to Know

By Marta Manning
Adderall may appeal to students due to its ability to boost energy and enhance focus, but it can be extremely dangerous when misused.

If you’re a busy college student, you may see Adderall as a convenient tool to improve your focus and achieve better grades, but the drug is far from harmless. You may not be aware of the long-term consequences of relying on this prescription stimulant, a mixture of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine.

Why Do College Students Abuse Adderall?

Like other stimulants prescribed for ADD and ADHD, Adderall can be easy to obtain. According to research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 2 in 3 teens and young adults who abuse prescription stimulants get the drug from friends or relatives.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that Adderall use is more common among college students than in other groups surveyed. In 2018, 11% of college students admitted to using Adderall without a prescription, according to the Monitoring the Future College Students and Young Adults survey.

“College is often a high-pressure environment, both socially and academically, and Adderall provides students with a way to meet these demands,” psychologist and owner of Anchor Counseling & Wellness Rebecca Cowan, PhD, LPC, NCC, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “They can stay up all night socializing with friends and use Adderall to help stay alert and focused the next day when writing a paper or studying for an exam.”

Psychologist Lucia Wallis Smith, LPC, NCC, CCATP, tells WebMD Connect to Care that many college students see taking Adderall as “part of the college experience." Some students use Adderall to chase away hangovers after nights spent partying and binge-drinking, Smith says. The stimulant can interact with alcohol and other drugs, increasing the likelihood of alcohol poisoning and high-risk behavior.

Long-term Effects of Adderall Abuse

Using Adderall for months can take a toll on your physical and mental health. One of the most serious risks of long-term Adderall abuse is substance use disorder (SUD), according to Yale Medicine. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration explains that substance use disorder refers to when repeated drug use interferes with your daily life. If you develop substance use disorder, you may experience brain changes that lead to cravings, drug-seeking behavior and, in some cases, drug addiction.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, chronic Adderall abuse can cause major health problems like:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Circulation issues
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Psychosis
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Unwanted weight loss and malnutrition

If you abuse Adderall, especially for long periods of time, you risk experiencing lasting health issues. Your best option is to reach out to a professional, like your primary care doctor or a substance abuse specialist, to learn how you can stop misusing drugs.

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