Academics

The Drive to Achieve: A Cautionary Tale

The recent spike in Adderall prescriptions, as well as the growing issue of abuse, has caused doctors and concerned users to take a step back and reexamine the use of the drug.  Since 2007, the number of prescriptions has increased by an astounding 26%, according to the New York Times, and abuse on college and high school campuses has also risen.  To truly understand what has motivated this increase, it is crucial to take a look at why students would want to take Adderall.

The drug, which as been called a “cognitive steroid” and “academic crack,” has become a performance enhancer for desperate college students, and its usage is now trickling down into high schools.  It doesn’t get these names for nothing.  As Pia Manna, Director of Health Services at Dana Hall explains, “steroids makes an athlete stronger; the same is true for Adderall and academics.” In colleges and high schools where so much is expected, students can often feel stressed and distraught.  Adderall offers a quick “picker upper,” enabling students to focus with newfound attentiveness.  In a society where achievement is so highly honored, it begs the question of whether we need to reevaluate our standards if some students feel drugs are a necessary part of success.

While countless teens across the country are using Adderall inappropriately, few may realize the serious implications of illegally taking prescription drugs.  “The truth of the matter,” Manna says, “is if you don’t have ADD or ADHD, taking Adderall can have an adverse effect.” Some takers may have unknown medical conditions that could react adversely with the drug, others risk dependence or even addiction. According to the New York Times, Adderall abuse can cause harsh mood swings, sleep deprivation, depression, and heart irregularities.  Adderall can also be a gateway drug to more serious drug abuse. Fortunately, Manna reports that Adderall abuse is not an issue at Dana Hall.

Most teens and young adults don’t know that it is illegal to casually share an Adderall prescription with a friend.  Adderall, an amphetamine, classifies as a Class Two drug, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. Therefore, buying or selling, or even letting a friend have a pill once in a while, is a serious felony. It carries the same consequences as dealing cocaine or morphine. That is why, Manna explains, the prescription protocol involves such a complicated process. Psychiatrists evaluate each individual through a series of tests to ensure their mental and physical safety.

However, recently there has been talk that this process needs to become even more rigorous.  In an age where distractions are everywhere, how is it possible to weed out those who truly suffer from ADD or ADHD from those who are just easily distracted? Almost every teenager will admit it can be a struggle to stay focused on the task at hand, especially when that task seems tedious and challenging. Becoming a mature adult, however, means being able to tackle a job, no matter how difficult, and Adderall deters an abuser from developing her own resources to work through challenging projects. A pill can seem like an easy fix with a pile of stress. Thankfully, there are a multitude of resources at Dana Hall for students struggling with academic pressure.

For more information, contact: Director of Health Services, Pia Manna (Pia.Manna@DanaHall.org)
and the Center’s staff; Director of Counseling, Dr. Slater (Pam.Slater@DanaHall.org) and the counseling staff;
and Learning Specialist, Ms. Roberts (Paula.Roberts@DanaHall.org).

by Claire Quinn