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Report reveals increase of abuse in prescription stimulants

Kevin Redifer, Staff Writer, Puma Press, PVCC

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The abuse of psychostimulant prescription drugs, such as Adderall, has “dramatically increased” across the country over the past decade, according to a 2012 report by Matthew D. Varga of the University of Tennessee in the “Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work.”

These drugs, originally intended for those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and narcolepsy, offer short-term boosts to mental stamina, memory and focus, but it is widely known that their abuse can lead to health problems, such as heart disease and addiction.

According to Dr. Harold Busch, a psychiatrist practicing in Houston, Texas, using these powerful medications without the supervision of a doctor can be a recipe for disaster.

“It’s not like drinking a cup of coffee or having a beer,” Busch said in an email interview. “I’ve seen patients have bad reactions (to Adderall), which is why some psychiatrists are reluctant to prescribe it even to clear cases of ADHD.”

Adderall is a mixture of amphetamine salts, which increase the brain’s production of dopamine and norepinephrine and stimulate the Central Nervous System. According to WebMD, this gives deep concentration for long periods of time and, in higher doses, euphoria.

“When I take it, I feel like I can accomplish anything,” said Tanner, a PVCC student who preferred not to use his full name. Tanner uses Adderall before big tests. “I don’t dread having to study. I take one and say to myself, ‘Either I finish this now while it’s easier or put it off and do it without the help.’ It’s an easy choice for me.”

The drug isn’t without its downsides. Overdoses from Adderall have sent many to the hospital, and the drug resulted in 81 deaths from 1999-2003, according to Lawyers and Settlements. That said, psychostimulant medications are used by millions of people every day and have relatively few side effects when compared to other drugs, such as antidepressants.

Another PVCC student, Chris, who preferred to use only his first name, says he likes what another stimulant study drug does for him so much that he got a psychiatrist to prescribe it for him.

“I wasn’t faking,” Chris said. “Dexedrine truly helps me focus and I’ve turned my grades around completely since I’ve been on it. I’m getting an A in math for the first time in my life and I’m a lot happier, overall. It really helps.”

ADDitude mag has a “College Survival Guide” for those with ADHD, filled with tips and tricks for managing symptoms without medication. These include choosing the right college, organization guides and ways to stop procrastinating. Busch believes people should try all of these first before using a psychostimulant medication.

“I get a lot of college kids coming in, trying to get diagnosed ADHD,” he said. “Sometimes they are, and sometimes they need this stuff, but most of the time college kids just need more sleep and better study habits.” Varga’s report for “Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work”  states that around 20 percent of college students abuse prescription stimulants.

With finals just around the corner, that percentage is likely to rise this month.

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