The Limitless Pill

Photo courtesy of Google
Photo courtesy of Google

Photo courtesy of Google

Mikelle Martin, freshman from Newburgh, Ind., said she never put two and two together.

Her brother and sister had it, but neither Martin nor her parents ever thought she had it. It never crossed their minds.

Until last summer.

Last summer, Martin finally went to the doctor. She was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, and was prescribed Adderall.

Martin said she wishes she would have been diagnosed earlier. She said the Adderall helps her pay attention in lectures, take better notes and get better grades.

She feels motivated and driven when she takes her pills, and when she’s not on them, “I’m a couch potato,” she said.

According to Attention Deficit Disorder Association, 4 to 6 percent of the U.S. population has ADHD.

It lists three common symptoms of the disorder: distractibility, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The association’s site also says ADHD and ADD are interchangeable references.

Judy Lyle, associate director of Health Services, said drugs like Adderall and Ritalin work similarly to the methamphetamine speed. She said they’re more controlled and have fewer side effects, but the drugs are similar. Lyle said she will occasionally have students come to Health Services and self-disclose that they are taking Adderall without a prescription, but it doesn’t happen often.

“I know it’s being sold,” Lyle said. “I know it’s an issue on campus.”

She said the drug became an issue when students take them with other drugs or with alcohol and that it can be harmful to mix substances.

A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research said Adderall is the most commonly abused prescription stimulant among college students. The study used Twitter to gather mentions of the drug.

The study monitored tweets containing the word “Adderall” from November 2011 to May 2012. They collected 213,633 tweets from 132,099 users. It found references to recreational use of Adderall were highest in northeast and southern states and the tweets peaked in December and May – finals weeks.

“… which suggests that college students who abuse prescription ADHD stimulants do so primarily during times of high academic stress,” the report said.

The report also catalogued the substances that were mentioned along with Adderall in tweets. Most commonly mentioned were alcohol, coffee, Redbull, cocaine and marijuana.

“Such poly drug use or co-ingestion is known to increase morbidity and mortality risk,” it said.

Adderall prescriptions can’t be refilled. If you are prescribed the drug, you have to go to your doctor every month and get a new prescription.

That allows your doctor to monitor the amount of pills taken and check for any side effects.

According to the Mayo Clinic, possible side effects of Adderall include anxiety, loss of strength and weight loss. Other side effects that are less common and require a doctor’s attention can include bladder pain, fast or irregular heartbeat, lower back or side pain and serious heart or blood vessel problems.

For a patient with a family history of heart problems, using Adderall could mean monthly heart and blood pressure checks. Martin said she has scheduled appointments with her doctor every few months so he can make sure her heart isn’t being damaged.

“(Adderall) can be dangerous to take if you don’t have ADD,” she said. “It can raise your heart rate.”

Martin said she can see why someone would take the drug during finals week, but she thinks it’s a dangerous choice.

“They’re trying to stay up and get everything done,” she said. “If you’re staying up that late, it’s unhealthy and it makes you irritable. They’re trying to fit 36 hours in a 24 hour day.”

Story by Kate Russell, Staff writer