background information
How are students abusing these prescription drugs?
How are the drugs so readily obtained?
Learn more about this nationwide epidemic.
Side effects
ADHD brain with Adderall.
ADHD brain without Adderall.
 

Like any drug, their are side effects to taking prescribred ADHD medication. Just ask Dawn Branson. On March 18, 2000, Branson was driving her car in a psychotic state, with her 3-year-old-son in the back seat. The result was a head-on collision in which Branson lost her only child. She was experiencing severe side affects to her prescription of Adderall.

"Hell, Hell inside of my mind. That's all I can say and I couldn't stop myself." These are words Branson used to described her body's reaction on Adderall.

Most people who take ADHD medication hardly ever experience extreme reactions like Branson's. Research indicates that abuse of the drugs can result in agitation, tremors, euphoria, increased or irregular heart rate, hypertension, sleeplessness, and a loss of appetite. More extreme cases, like Branson's, include manic or psychotic episodes, paranoid delusions, hallucinations, and in rare instances, death.

For the average person who is using ADHD drugs for recreation or studying, side effects are compared to cocaine and methamphetamine. Similar to these drugs, both Adderall and Ritalin block the reuptake of dopamine, a brain neurotransmitter that tends to promote mood elevations and feelings of alertness, well-ness and superiority.

Popularity of ADHD drugs stem from their ability to increase energy and still allow for high levels of concentration. Many students who abuse the drug, explain that it makes them feel stable in stressful times.

Associate faculty at John's Hopkins University Department of Counseling, said that "Ritalin does not correct biochemical imbalances -- it causes them." Also indicating that abuse can lead to damaging effects as depression, insomnia, agitation, social withdrawl and a decreased ability to learn.

When taken as prescribed, Ritalin and Adderall are regarded as valuable medicine. Research shows that people with ADHD do not become addicted to stimulant medications when taken in the form prescribed and at treatment dosages.

Unfortunately, a majority of college students using the drug are either abusing it to study or party. The Drug Enforcement Agency has listed methyphenidate, the generic name for Ritalin, as one of its Schedule II drugs, those with the highest potential for addiction and abuse, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research.

In a 2002 survey of the students at the University of Florida, 1.5 percent used Ritalin recreationally in the previous 30 days. In a 2000 survey, 16 percent of student at a small public liberal arts college reported having tried Ritalin recreationally, and 12.7 percent have taken it intranasally. Another survery from 2000 found that at the University of Pennsylvania almost 9 percent of undergraduates had used someone else's prescription medications, many of which were Ritalin, according to the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention.

It is reported that most students who abuse prescription drugs start in their first years of college.