As final exams begin this week, some students have turned to the prescription drug Adderall to assist their study efforts.
Adderall, a commercial name for a combination of amphetamine salts, has been linked to enhanced cognitive function and academic performance. The drug is a central nervous system stimulant that is commonly prescribed to individuals who have attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to help improve mental focus. According to an article published in the journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, nonmedical use of amphetamines may be grounds for instances of substance abuse and dependency, as well as cause potentially adverse effects such as cardiovascular events, seizures and psychosis.
A panel discussion hosted by the Binghamton Student Managed Adderall Research Team (B-SMART) on Dec. 3 aimed to educate students on how Adderall modifies brain chemistry and causes harmful effects to users. The B-SMART team is comprised of undergraduate students from Binghamton University that study the effects and scale of Adderall use on campus with the goal of using their research to prevent further abuse and educating the student body.
The B-SMART internship is a research-based program under the mentorship of Lina Begdache, an assistant professor of health and wellness studies. Part of the research includes conducting surveys of the student body. According to Lee Ann Genussa, a member of B-SMART and a senior majoring in integrative neuroscience, Adderall use is common on college campuses and BU is no different.
“Data from our survey conducted on BU’s own campus showed that 27 percent of students report having used Adderall,” Genussa said. “Of the nearly 600 participants who filled out the survey, over two-thirds had never received a formal education about the effects Adderall can have on the body and mind.”
Adderall is a controlled substance legally available only by prescription from a licensed physician. Nevertheless, Genussa said the drug is notoriously abused by college students, both as a study aid during examinations and as a recreational drug, and her primary concern is the potential of Adderall and other similar drugs to modify brain chemistry and create long-lasting effects.
“Completion of brain maturity in early to mid-20s is a critical window of time,” Genussa said. “Abuse of drugs, including Adderall, may put a halt on the normal brain maturity.”
Josef Goldberg, a junior majoring in computer science, said he feels many students use Adderall, but not all. Goldberg said those who do use it choose to because they are overwhelmed by the academic workload leading up to finals week.
“I think that the main cause of [Adderall] abuse is the large workload given during certain times of the semester,” Goldberg said. “I think if the workload between courses was more spread out and not consolidated during certain weeks, students would have less motivation to abuse.”
According to a 2017 World Drug Report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, 37 million people used amphetamines and prescription stimulants that year. An anonymous sophomore said they have purchased Adderall from friends who are prescribed the drug.
“A lot of people use Adderall, especially around the time of finals,” the sophomore said. “Adderall is extremely easy to find, as people sell their own prescriptions with each pill costing between $5 and $10.”
Another anonymous student said they attribute their ability to focus for final exams to Adderall use.
“[During] my freshman year, I was slacking off the whole semester in one of my classes, so when it came time to study for the final a day before the exam, I decided to buy some Adderall,” the student said. “I took 15 milligrams and it greatly helped me focus and study for the exam, which I ended up getting an A on.”
The student also said the University should address the issue of drug abuse by offering more resources to the campus community.
“The school should distribute information to students regarding the risks of taking unprescribed drugs, alternative methods to improve studying and resources for students to reach out to for a diagnosis in cases where they truly believe they need Adderall,” they said.
According to Genussa, there are currently no services on campus that specifically target Adderall abuse, but she said there are offices that offer services to help students dealing with drug abuse.
“There are a number of offices on campus that can provide help to Adderall users, including the REACH [Real Education About College Health] office, the Alcohol, [Tobacco] and Other Drugs office, as well as the University Counseling Center,” Genussa said.