By India Downes-LeGuin
Walk into any study room during finals week, and you are likely to find someone working diligently under the productive effects of Adderall. Adderall is a pyschostimulant most commonly prescribed to combat ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) but used casually by many college students.
“I only take Adderall before any big tests or midterms,” Kyle Schuster PZ ’16 said. “It helps me focus and keeps me awake.”
While using the drug infrequently to boost performance is common, some students take Adderall daily out of necessity. Alex Cooke PZ ’16 said he used to struggle with school before he was diagnosed with ADD and began taking Adderall regularly.
“Without Adderall, I can’t focus,” Cooke said. “I have to take it or else I can’t get any work done.”
Adderall use habits vary widely, and so do the drug’s effects on different individuals. The only side effect that Schuster has experienced is difficulty sleeping. He said Adderall might keep him awake until 5 a.m., but he is often studying until that time anyway. Cooke, however, said his medication makes him feel he is not himself and frequently leaves him in dark moods that are difficult to shake.
“I need [Adderall] to get work done, but I definitely wouldn’t take it if I didn’t have to,” Cooke said.
A student who wished to remain anonymous recalled a time when she took Vyvance, a stimulant similar to Adderall, to study for a test the next day. She felt productive in the evening, but when she awoke in the morning, her heart rate was extremely elevated and she felt faint. She ended up feeling terrible during her test, despite her earlier productivity.
Given recent criticism of Adderall and complaints that doctors may be prescribing it too liberally and in doses too high, some students who can do without the drug are choosing to forgo its use. Sarah Markowitz PZ ’16 said she has ADD but does not use psychostimulants to treat her disorder.
“I don’t take medication because I don’t want to feel reliant on a drug,” Markowitz said. “I also don’t think it’s necessary.”
While Markowitz finds she is able to concentrate well enough by studying in quiet rooms, eliminating distractions, and taking breaks, she acknowledges that others may need medication to get through the long periods of sustained focus required for success in school.