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Nowadays college can seem like a huge burden on your chest, and juggling academics with your social life can be more challenging than your abstract algebra course. Claiming to boost concentration levels to optimize study time, Adderall has become one of the predominant “study drugs” that have made their way onto campuses around the nation.  However, taking drugs for off-label purposes such as increasing attention can have very serious consequences. Affecting your health and increasing risk for dependency are just a few of the potential side effects of taking drugs off-label or taking them for unintended purposes. Adderall users look just like anyone else and that alone may incentivize you to try it out, but with any drug abuse situation, one must be knowledgeable about health and social consequences. Adderall is a prescription drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and it’s not a drug that should be taken lightly. To give you an idea, the DEA classifies Adderall as a Schedule II drug, which are “defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse … with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Other examples of Schedule II drugs include cocaine, methamphetamine, and OxyContin.

Adderall is in the same family of neurotransmitters and hormones as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Adderall basically mimics the primary characteristics of these neurotransmitters. Dopamine’s pleasure and reward pathway, norepinephrine’s “fight or flight” response, and that rush we feel when we are nervous or excited, attributed by epinephrine, are all triggered by Adderall (amphetamine) binding to these receptors.

The brain’s pleasure and reward pathway is greatly affected by dopamine levels.

Image Source: Fernando Da Cunha

Researchers have found that Adderall use skyrockets from part-time students to full-time students as well as from underclassmen to upperclassmen. More than 90% of illicit users use it for studying while concentrating; this begs the question “Are students taking this drug for the “right reason?”’ Some common side effects of Adderall include bladder pain, fast, pounding irregular heartbeat, lower back or side pain, and frequent and painful urination. Long-term uses of amphetamine are relatively unknown, but high doses of amphetamine consumption via snorting can result in serious addictions.

Athletes who take steroids and are caught, more times than not, end their careers at that moment they are caught. “Study drugs” like Adderall used to stimulate your concentration to ease studying are not in a sense life-deteriorating; you won’t die from taking a couple to finish up a paper. But the risk of dependency is very real, and the fear of not being able to finish assignments without the help of the drug is too close for comfort in my opinion. The question is still up to the reader; should taking these stimulants for the purpose of getting better grades be equivalent to cheating or attributed to well-informed decision making?

Feature Image Source: Frank Boston

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