College Students Misusing ADD Drugs

College Students Misusing ADD Drugs
When students with Attention Deficit Disorder go off to college, they may face challenges that they don't expect. These have nothing to do with what happens in the classroom. The challenges involve stimulant medications that the students take by prescription to treat their negative symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder. These prescriptions' popularity on college campuses makes these drugs highly prized, and there is significant peer pressure to share them. A new study from the University of South Carolina did a meta-analysis of 30 studies involving the misuse of ADD/ADHD medications like Adderall and methylphenidate by college students. After crunching the numbers, the study found that 1 in 6 or 17% of college students misuse stimulant drugs.

What constitutes misuse of these drugs? Some students take drugs at a higher dosage than prescribed. Others use them while drinking alcoholic beverages. Still other students who have no prescriptions for these drugs use ADD/ADHD drugs that they have received from friends that have a prescription. The ramifications of these behaviors can be devastating and life-altering.

Students who take the drugs at a higher dosage risk running out of the drug, so their symptoms go untreated for a period. Too much of a stimulant drug at one time can also raise heart rate and blood pressure, with the attendant problems that these effects on the body can cause. Students who drink alcoholic beverages while they take stimulant drugs tend to drink longer, since the drugs keep them awake for longer periods of time. This can lead to alcohol poisoning, a potentially fatal event.

There are also the legal problems associated with sharing prescriptions. When students share ADD drugs, it is like they are playing with fire. Stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall are a Schedule II controlled substance. Giving or selling pills to friends is not the same thing as giving them aspirin or ibuprofen. It is a crime that is like supplying cocaine. When there is an adverse health effect from the drugs, death being considered as one effect, the supplier is criminally liable for the effect. For the student who is taking a friend's prescription medication, they are ingesting an illegal (for them) substance and are subject to the same laws that they would be breaking if they were taking cocaine. The student who is supplying the prescription medication is trafficking in drugs. What does this mean to a student?

Students who have drug convictions have limited access to federal financial aid and federal benefits. The question is asked on every FAFSA form that you fill out. Lying about convictions is also a crime. The more convictions a person has, the higher the penalties. There are employers who will not hire people with drug convictions. Also, some professions prohibit people with drug convictions from becoming members of those professions. The professional regulations vary from state to state.

One of the study's authors became interested in the rate of Attention Deficit Disorder drugs' misuse when people would ask her for Ritalin and Adderall when they learned that she was working with students who had Attention Deficit Disorder. She recognized that this behavior is a problem, and she wanted to know how widespread the behavior is. For some college students, it is pretty common. Some students might feel that asking somebody for their ADD/ADHD drugs is just "sharing," when it is actually putting both parties at risk for health issues and legal problems. The bottom line is, "Don't ask-don’t share."


University of South Carolina. (2015, March 10). One in six college students misuse ADHD stimulant drugs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 29, 2015 from

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