Adderall’s detrimental effects on the body

In Features, Student Body
Graphic by Kristen Hulsey/Daily Titan Design Editor

It’s midnight, you’re exhausted from eight hours of class and you still have 15 chapters to read. Your stomach hurts and you have a headache. You sweat just thinking about what you have to do, and in order to focus, you grab “study-enhancers,” such as Adderall, or energy pills, and try to concentrate.

Caffeine is the most common drug amongst college students and many are aware of its detrimental side effects. However, not so many know about the downsides to energy pills and study-enhancing drugs.

Increasing in popularity, Adderall is not an uncommon prescription drug used to help students concentrate in class and do better on tests.

Adderall, or amphetamine-dextroamphetamine, was first marketed in the 1960s as the diet pill of choice. It is currently classified as a stimulant medication and appetite suppressant and is mostly used to treat both attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Adderall stimulates the central nervous system by increasing the release of chemicals such as dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. These chemicals, or neurotransmitters, help the brain send signals between nerve cells. The drug helps restore the balance of these neurotransmitters to the parts of the brain that control the ability to focus and pay attention.

“Yes, they do make an individual more alert, but at what cost?” said Dr. Patti Laguna, sport psychology professor. “The lack of sleep, especially with long-term use, can be extremely dangerous.”

The side effects of Adderall may not be noticed the first few times, but as time progresses, users are capable of experiencing repercussions.

“Some side effects include increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, constriction of blood vessels, increase of glucose in blood, restlessness and insomnia,” said Laguna. “Serious side effects include increased body temperature, irregular heart rate, cardiovascular failure, seizures, and in rare cases psychosis.”

According to Laguna, there have been a few studies conducted that have examined Adderall misuse. For example, approximately six to 10 percent of students nationally have misused Adderall for studying, while Adderall misusers typically have alcohol-related problems (i.e., binge drinking). Adderall misusers include more males (14.4 percent) than females (9.1 percent), more white (14.5 percent) than non-white (6.1 percent) and more students residing with the Greek system (53.9 percent) than those residing on campus (14.5 percent) or those who reside off campus (seven percent).

Those who want to avoid Adderall attempt to stick to other studying habits.

“Usually when I have an exam, I just cram,” said 24-year-old illustration major Barbra Cembrano.

Although Adderall may be a bad choice to study with, other substances such as energy pills aren’t any better and can even be worse.

For example, some students take caffeinated diet pills as an alternative to sugary beverages. However, there is one unforeseen problem with caffeine in diet pills: the amount of caffeine can be equal to two or three cups of coffee. When that is added to the already caffeine-enriched student diet of soda pop and Red Bulls, it can increase a student’s heart rate and blood pressure, and can induce insomnia and anxiety.

Energy pills cause muscle tremors, headache, nausea and other gastrointestinal problems as well as abnormal heart rhythms. In addition to this, relying on stimulants may be a quick fix, but they are not suitable for long-term energy.

“Most students who use these types of study drugs are merely cheating themselves. They think they have found a short cut to studying and doing well in their classes,” said Laguna. “They may get away with not having to understand and learn the material today but it will definitely come back to haunt them again. It might not be tomorrow or next week, but sooner or later (even when they have a job) they will need to learn it.”

Some students have stressful lives dealing with exams and pressure in and outside of the classroom. The amount of pressure and stress they put on themselves is hard enough, but adding vast amounts of caffeine and over-the-counter drugs can be more damaging to their health.

“If you need to stay up late take a cold shower, run around, turn up the music and open up a window,” suggested history major Tondra Russell.

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  • kirk horton

    Technology exists to increase attention and achieve peak performance. Granted, it’s more difficult than simply taking a pill, but it has no side effects.

    Play Attention (www.playattention.com), for example has been used in schools since 1996, by the US Women’s Olympic Bobsled Team, US military, and others. It’s been researched here and in the UK. See: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100107083904.htm

    There are both ethical and physical reasons the sports community has banned the use of performance enhancing drugs. Think carefully.

  • Steve

    How does taking adderall equate to not “learning” or “understanding” material? When I take adderall I am able to retain information 10x better than without it. If anything I am a better student because of Adderall and a better candidate for jobs when I graduate. I don’t see Adderall as some sort of short cut- if anything its a long cut- I am able to stay focused for hours on end and study for longer than I could without it. I spend more time on material when I am on adderall than when not on it.

  • Someon who knows

    Yes i agree with steve the person who wrote this article obviously has a skewed perception on what adderall actually does. Im on it right now actually, and I think most of the side effects such as not being able to sleep is directly related to the person not everyone, for I take addreall at about 8 pm and promptly fall asleep at 2-3am (which is my regular sleeping schedule).

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