The Daily Gamecock

Column: Adderall and other 'study pills' are a hazard to student safety, mental health

A textbook and bottle of Adderall spilled on the keyboard of a laptop. Adderall is a prescribed drug used to increase attentiveness and to help stay focused on tasks.
A textbook and bottle of Adderall spilled on the keyboard of a laptop. Adderall is a prescribed drug used to increase attentiveness and to help stay focused on tasks.

It can seem like drugs are everywhere in college. We are constantly warned throughout our lifetime to never try any drug from a long list that includes weed and heroin. but what we are rarely warned about is a drug that is considered normal to take — Adderall. USC must educated students on the dangers and side effects of Adderall, especially as the drug becomes used during finals season.

Adderall, otherwise known as a “study pill,” has many dangerous adverse effects that college students don't even know about. It may seem to be everyone’s secret to straight A’s, but grades are not so important that you would take something without reading the back of the bottle. 

The truth is, the FDA isn’t sure of all the side effects or adverse effects of study drugs. Because drug companies rely on users of the pill to report side effects, college students not reporting the effect of Adderall has resulted in lack of transparency. While it is known for helping those diagnosed with ADHD, its list of side effects that students are unaware of is something to be concerned about. 

The American Addiction Center characterizes stimulants such as Adderall, Ritalin and Concerta as one of the most addictive substances when taken in high doses. 

With the positive side effects being increased energy, motivation and the ability to focus — things some college students struggle with — there is no wonder there is an epidemic among young people. 

For a drug of its caliber, there is no difficulty getting a prescription, and in a study in 2021 by Georgia Southern University, of the students with ADHD or ADD that participated in the survey, 100% of them had been asked by a friend to share their prescription. The problem also lies here at USC, affecting students who are having a hard time balancing class work load. 

One student, who would like to remain anonymous using the initials KH, said she faced challenges with the prescription drug Adderall. The second-year advertising student takes the drug for her diagnosed ADHD, and said there are benefits but also side effects that come with it. 

“It has a positive impact on me when I am taking it, but you can become so dependent on it to get things done once you start,” KH said.

She said the days she takes it, she is a lot more productive, but on the days she doesn’t take it, she said it is almost impossible to do anything. KH has been on the drug for about 4 years now and knows the struggles that come with the prescription. 

“It's definitely beneficial to me, but seeing how it is effecting me, I don't necessary think that it is something that should be prescribed to everyone," KH said. 

Another student, Mason Petchel, also prescribed Adderall, is someone who knows the bad side effects all too well.

“It kind of numbs all my emotions, like it makes me not myself, it makes it harder to talk.” Petchel said. 

But one emotion of his it does not numb is the feeling of anxiety. He said that he is pretty anxious in general, but feels anxious when taking his prescription.

Long term use could change brain function enough to depress the mood and boost anxiety, according to a 2009 report in Scientific American. The brain changing factors of the medicine due to long term use are left somewhat unknown. 

It tricks the brain into not making dopamine, a chemical that is associated with a good mood, resulting in depression, according to ABC’s interview with Fallon Schultz, an addiction specialist. 

Many students find dangerous effects of the medicine after they mix it with alcohol, which can result in severe depressive episodes and self-harm. 

“Especially when it comes to mental health side effects, the side effects of drugs are very, very rarely reported because there is a stigma to mental health issues and the concerns are far below the radar," Charles Bennett, M.D., Ph.D. said. 

Bennett is a hematologist and oncologist who has been researching the prevention of adverse drug effects to improve drug safety and works in the College of Pharmacy at USC. 

Part of Bennet's area of research he said is prompting the FDA to begin showing all of the side effects of drugs on the label, which he says, helps to solve the issue of unreported side effects. 

College students who use the drug without a prescription may not know to report side effects or may be deterred from reporting them due to their lack of prescription. 

The research focuses on the drug Cipro, which has many of the same side effects as Adderall and shares some of the concern with the unlisted side effects pertaining to mental health.  

The epidemic among students and Adderall is one that USC must actively prevent by educating students on the dangers and side effects of Adderall, especially during finals season. Students at USC must use caution when taking Adderall or other study drugs.