Adderall: Is It Worth It?

Recently, my focus inquiry teacher assigned us a paper where we had to respond to a prompt in which an ethical decision had to be made. Out of all the prompts that dealt with common problems in college such as marijuana, violations of the honor code, and cyber bullying, there was one prompt that gained my interest:

"It has been a hectic fall semester. Jack was looking over his finals schedule: two finals on Tuesday (back to back) and two on Wednesday. How was he going to possibly do all of this studying? As he sat looking over his notes a fellow classmate sat next to him and started talking about the amount of studying he was going to have to do. She suggested Jack take a pill to help him concentrate and study better: Adderall. He really didn’t know what Adderall was and had never heard of it before college. She said it would be okay because it was her prescription (a prescription a lot of kids take for attention deficit disorder to help them focus), and he could trust her. She wouldn’t even charge him for the pill. She mentioned that many college kids take Adderall to help them study during finals week".

As a stressed freshman still trying to adapt to college life, the concept of Adderall, or "study drugs" in general is surprising yet intriguing. I didn't know that there are college students that are taking, and could even possibly be abusing these drugs around me. Feeling ignorant, I went ahead and did more research in order to determine whether I should support the practice. Although part of me wanted Jack to take the pill (as long as he knew the side effects), my gut was telling me that it wasn't worth it.

Many students experience the pressures and immense stress during finals season. These pressures can lead to temptations such as pulling all nighters, increasing caffeine intake, and other methods that could harm a person’s health. In relation, “study drugs” have become popular as it provides students excessive energy to concentrate on their studies. In the scenario chosen, Jack is conflicted when his friend suggests that he should take a dose of Adderall, a prescription based stimulant that helps people who are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) concentrate. She tells him that it is safe since it is prescribed under her name and that many college students take Adderall to help them study and get their work done. If I were Jack, I would have declined her offer, because the use of Adderall can have long term consequences for an individual’s health and social life.

First, Adderall is a stimulant designed to primarily treat those with ADHD, and can only be obtained with a prescription. According to William Dodson, a board-certified psychiatrist who has specialized in adults with ADHD for the last 23 years, it is strongly recommended that “Adderall should be taken only as part of a doctor-supervised treatment plan that may also include diet, exercise, supplements, behavioral therapy, parent training, and school accommodations, among other therapies” (Dodson). Since Jack is not diagnosed with ADHD or other attention deficiency disorders, it is best that he does not take Adderall for the sake of his health. Once a person starts to take Adderall, he or she will experience the long term effects of the stimulant. The long term effects are consequential and disrupt the body’s physiological functions. According to American Addiction Disorders, the long term effects of Adderall include but not limited to: insomnia, inability to concentrate, heart disease, thoughts of suicide, mood swings, and anxiety. Neurologically, Adderall increases levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Because there are many neurotransmitters present, the brain “stops producing them and makes changes to its own natural reward circuitry. The more often Adderall is taken, the more ingrained these changes become. A tolerance to the drug may form, and more Adderall may be needed at each dose in order to feel the same desired effects. As Adderall leaves the bloodstream, withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings may occur, indicating a physical and emotional dependence on the drug” (American Addiction Disorders). Therefore, Adderall should only be taken if the person is diagnosed with ADHD. If a person takes the drug without a chronic condition, he or she will experience the after effects physically and mentally.

Eventually, the long term effects of Adderall can lead to substance abuse and addiction. Although the correlation between taking Adderall and achieving high grades is unknown, there are various studies that analyze the behavior of addicted college students. College students who abuse the Adderall are twice as likely to get addicted to the drug than those who are not in college. According to a study conducted in 2009 by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there is substantial evidence that there is direct relationship between Adderall abuse and other types of drug abuse. As stated on, “individuals using Adderall non-medically in college are also: three times as more likely to have used marijuana, eight times to have used cocaine, eight times to have used tranquilizers non-medically, and five times more likely to have used painkillers non-medically in the past year” ( The study also discovered that “ninety percent of those using Adderall non-medically were reported binge drinkers, and more than 50 percent were reported to be heavy drinkers” ( Based on statistical evidence and research, I believe the use of Adderall is effective for increasing work ethic and attention, but it does not have a significant effect on increasing intelligence or on the ability to get better grades. Adderall only works for a limited amount of time, and if abused, the chances of abusing other drugs increases as well.

Besides the negative effects of Adderall towards an individual’s health, taking the stimulant can have damaging consequences socially in college. Based on the Illicit use of prescription ADHD medications on a college campus, a survey conducted by DeSantis, Webb, and Noar, “81% of the students interviewed thought illicit use of ADHD medication was "not dangerous at all" or "slightly dangerous” (DeSantis, et al 2008). Arianna Yanes, a writer for CNN, discovers that most “students say they take these stimulants for the "right reasons," to be more productive in classes and stay afloat in the sea of intense competition” (Yanes). In an interview conducted, most college students perceive Adderall as a lifesaver. The stimulant “‘helps [them] stay focused and be more efficient’, and also makes them ‘feel very alive and awake and ready for challenges that come my way’” (Yanes). When asked whether they were scared of the consequences, one student said, “the fact that it's illegal really doesn't cross my mind. It's not something that I get nervous about because it's so widespread and simple" (Yanes). Based on the survey and interview, it is obvious that study drugs such as Adderall has been socially acceptable amongst college students. If Jack were to take the pill, he would be conforming to the dangerous practice, and could potentially harm other students.

In conclusion, Jack should not take Adderall just because he is stressed and wants to get his work done. Adderall should only be taken if the individual is prescribed with it, causes long term effects, addiction. Because so many students abuse the drug to help them study, the use of Adderall has become accepted norm for university students. The use of Adderall also contributes to the societal pressure that expects college students to achieve good grades in order to graduate and succeed in life, which creates a competitive atmosphere around campus. By taking Adderall, it supports illegal drug abuse and promotes an unhealthy lifestyle for college students.

If you were in Jack's situation, what would you do?

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