Designed for those suffering from from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or sleep disorders like narcolepsy, Adderall helps with focus and the ability to stay awake. For others who need to stay up all night, cram four chapters of econometrics the night before a test or simply find a way to stay off their phone while studying, the prescription drug serves the same purpose – minus the prescription.
Adderall can be used as a study drug, and for the typical overcommitted Northwestern student, it is very appealing. Family doctors can prescribe the drug to anyone who seems to need it, and some people with the prescription have found a cost-free way of making profit off the drug by selling it to their friends, since insurance companies often cover the fee. Adderall has found its way on campus onto many colleges, and Northwestern certainly isn’t an exception.
Let’s break down the facts and fiction behind the controversial study drug.
There is one standard dosage for Adderall.
Fiction. Adderall comes in all shapes and sizes, eight to be exact, with 5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 12.5 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg and 30 mg pills available for prescribed patients. Larger doses allow for an extended time and strength effect of the drug. By manipulating the dosage size, Adderall can help with varying degrees of severity for ADHD or narcolepsy issues.
Adderall is available in two forms.
Fact. The drug can be found as both an immediate release (IR) tablet or as an extended release (XR) capsule. IR is supposed to last anywhere from four to six hours while XR lasts up to 12 hours.
Street prices for the drug start at $5.
Fact. On streetRx, a website that allows users to input information about the prices of prescription drugs through third-party vendors, a 10 mg pill and a 20 mg XR pill were reported to be selling for as little as $2 and $10, respectively, right here in Chicago. Since patients with prescriptions receive pills for free from their insurance plans, drug dealers who exploit this make pure profit from their sales.
ADHD prescriptions have doubled from 2007 to 2012.
Fiction. In fact, they have almost tripled. In 2012, there were 16 million people with Adderall prescriptions, up from 5.6 million in 2007.
Adderall is pharmaceutically similar to cocaine.
Fact. Adderall works by increasing levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, which leads to increased attention, alertness and heart rate. Cocaine works along the same lines: it blocks the reuptake of dopamine in your neurons, which increases the feeling of the high. Dopamine makes people feel alert, and both Adderall and cocaine affect it on different levels.
Editorial disclaimer: while Adderall and cocaine may be similar scientifically speaking, this was not meant to imply that the two are used for similar purposes, by similar people or share similar dangers. Cocaine is illegal and frequently abused, while Adderall is a legal drug that benefits those who need it. NBN deeply regrets any implicit stigma this article may have perpetuated by drawing this scientific parallel. – Andy Brown, 10/26/16, 10:36 p.m.
Adderall can help you lose weight.
Fact. While certainly not primarily used as a weight-loss drug (and should never be), Adderall directly leads to a decreased appetite during its effect duration, anywhere from four to 12 hours. Patients who are prescribed Adderall must consciously keep aware of their calorie intake while under the effect of the drug, because a patient’s metabolism also increases while under Adderall’s effect.
Adderall leads to direct results in the classroom.
Fiction. In 2010, an experiment was made to see if Adderall actually does the job college students want it to do: help them improve their test scores. One of the groups was given Adderall before a test and another group was given a placebo drug. While the group given Adderall thought they did better on the tests, the results were showed no significant difference. The reason for this is the euphoria effect that occurs when Adderall releases more dopamine; you think you're performing better, but you might just be feeling better.
Adderall is not addictive.
Fiction. Adderall is addictive, and an increased amount of exposure to it lowers your ability to focus. According to Addiction Center, “those habitually using Adderall develop a tolerance to the drug and are unable to function normally without it.” Users crave the feeling caused by Adderall and the increased amounts of dopamine it elicits in their brain, to the point where their brains keeps telling them to come back for more. If the drug is not provided, their focus levels decrease.
Contact campus resources to learn more about drug use and abuse.
Editor's note: a previous version of this story said that "patients make pure profit" from sales of Adderall. This was in poor taste – drug dealers are the ones making profit, not patients who take perscription Adderall to help them with psychiatric treatment. NBN regrets this lack of judgment, and made the change at 8 p.m. on Oct. 26.