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College Students and the Dangers of Adderall
By Caitlin Wilson

Dr. Anna BoettcherSince it came on the market in 1996, Adderall has become one of the most widely used illicit substances second only to cannabis. This is because, as a prescription drug, Adderall is commonly shared between those with and without a prescription, according to the September 2014 issue of Current Psychiatry.

Adderall is a commonly prescribed medication used to treat disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder. Adderall is an amphetamine that changes the levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. If Adderall is used as prescribed, then it can be very helpful for patients.

"Adderall should only be taken as prescribed. Most often it is taken twice a day," says Dr. Anna Boettcher, MD, Medical Director of Community Psychiatry at Mercy Behavioral Health, part of Pittsburgh Mercy Health System. "Smoking or snorting Adderall, or taking more than the recommended daily dose causes it to peak more quickly in the system and is more likely to lead to addiction."

The adverse side effects of Adderall abuse can include heart attacks, dental problems (blackened teeth, abscesses, etc.), psychosis, aggression, paranoia, insomnia, and depression. There are no specific treatments for Adderall abuse. Those who want a rehabilitation program or support group can go to any licensed 30-day detoxification program or any 12-step program for individuals who have a drug addiction.

"I like referring people to older, more established support programs," Dr. Boettcher says. "They're positive, they're free, and they help people maintain recovery."

Some college students use Adderall to increase their focus while studying. However, many take more than what is recommended, believing it will work more effectively. "The idea of cramming or 'pulling an all-nighter' before an exam is never a good idea," Dr. Boettcher says.

Dr. Boettcher suggests that struggling college students follow these helpful tips:

  • Develop a daily routine for yourself
  • Eat right
  • Take care of yourself
  • Modify your class schedule

"Students should also be aware that sharing medication can become a legal matter," Dr. Boettcher says. "Which could have long-term consequences on one's life." For mental health, addiction and crisis, call Mercy Behavioral Health at 1-877-637-2924. Their call center is available 24 hours.

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