Thompson: Students must take the risks and consequences of Adderall abuse more seriously

Laurel Thompson

The last wave of tests before finals is approaching and students are naturally losing steam as summer approaches. For some, all-nighters and excessive amounts of caffeine seem like the only way to get by at this point, but for others, the answer lies elsewhere.

Adderall, a drug commonly prescribed to ADHD patients, has become a substance of high demand among college students in recent years, as more and more students are turning to “study drugs” to help them conquer heavy workloads and maintain focus during cram study sessions and late-night essays. Although it may seem like a harmless and easy way out since it enables the user to accomplish massive amounts of work in a short period of time, Adderall and other “study drugs” are highly addictive and may cause serious health issues when abused. Yet, in the midst of overwhelming assignments and final exams, college students tend to only think of the present and seek immediate help from these substances, which all too often results in their neglect and apathy for the health consequences of these means. 


According to NPR, Adderall is among the most frequently-prescribed medications in the United States — in addition to other ADHD prescription drugs like Ritalin — and has become particularly controversial due to its highly addictive properties: dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. The drug functions by increasing the production of neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine in the user’s brain, which are associated with pleasure and energy levels, giving the user a high similar to that of cocaine when abused. Given the seemingly harmless euphoria caused by an Adderall high, many college students who experiment with study drugs only see a significant increase in their productivity and inevitably face a slippery slope into dependency.

Typically, unprescribed Adderall use among college students begins as a last resort for combating midterm papers and finals, since stress levels peak and students near their breaking point during this time. Yet, when the effects prove helpful in these high-stress scenarios, students tend to seek out Adderall more frequently from prescribed acquaintances who sell it illegally as a way of making money. It is usually soon after they discover their potential during an Adderall high that college students find themselves reliant on the drug for motivation each time they sit down to study.

Furthermore, Adderall addiction at this stage often becomes a necessity for basic functioning in other non-academic areas of life, like in the workplace. Although I have never resorted to using Adderall — and I’m sure there are times where it might have saved my sanity — I have had multiple coworkers ask if I knew where they could find Adderall just to make it through a serving shift. In this way, young adults who may or may not have began use for academic purposes take Adderall for situations in their daily lives when nonusers might drink coffee.

Unlike in academia and the workplace, it is not uncommon for young people to take Adderall for recreational purposes like at college parties or concerts. It is in these particular scenarios where Adderall consumption can become extremely dangerous because, like with cocaine, the effects can counter those of alcohol like slurred speech and fatigue, and the user consequentially has a higher likelihood of getting alcohol poisoning if he is oblivious to these warning signs and continues to drink. In addition, Adderall and alcohol are both dehydrating substances, which in itself can be dangerous if neglected.

Unfortunately, the dangers of Adderall do not stop with addiction and risks when combined with other substances. According to the Center on Young Adult Health and Development, “taking high doses of prescription stimulants may result in dangerously high body temperatures, irregular heartbeat, seizures or heart attack,” and those who take Adderall non-medically also have a greater tendency to binge drink and use other drugs like cocaine. Life-threatening overdose is also possible and can be recognized by hyperventilation, uncontrollable shaking, chest pain, vomiting, fever and fainting.

Adderall addiction forms easily and has negative consequences despite positive results on paper, causing college students to be especially susceptible during their young adulthood. I find it depressing that so many people ultimately become the victim of something they originally used for the sake of staying afloat in the midst of sometimes impossible workloads. So to the students of CSU, Front Range and even CU, take this as a warning if you have thought about using Adderall for finals this spring.  

Collegian Columnist Laurel Thompson can be reached at or on Twitter @laurelanne1996.