Drug Enquirer

NEWS AND FACTS ABOUT MEDICINES YOU TAKE

Academic Doping:
Adderall Advantage or Dangerous Delusion?

Amphetamine, as with cocaine, can induce symptoms similar to those seen in obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and phobic disorders
Like athletes who use steroids, students who use Adderall to enhance academic performance are in many ways victims.

Like steroids for the brain, college students everywhere have discovered a miracle drug that seems to solve all their study problems. No longer must they waste time sleeping, they can study twice as fast and remember twice as well. Users feel euphoric and invincible until the—effects wear off.

Users of amphetamines feel euphoric and invincible—until the effects wear off.

Adderall is a cocktail of amphetamines that increases focus and mental-processing speed, and decreases fatigue. Apparently, the stimulant drug can make you better at whatever you do. Way back in 1959, government-sponsored researchers found that Stanford varsity swimmers swam faster and shot-putters threw farther on amphetamines. Even today, the U.S. Air Force supplies amphetamine “go pills” to its combat pilots. At colleges throughout the country, academic success now includes a steady flow of psychopharmaceuticals. “I don't think I could keep a 3.9 average without this stuff,” a college student told the New York Times in an article entitled, “The Adderall Advantage.”

Adderall Revolution

Adderall sales in the U.S. soared by more than 3,100 percent between 2002 and 2005, according to the Washington Post. Bootlegged at about $3 to $5 per pill, Adderall is both inexpensive and accessible.

As many as one-in-four college students misused ADHD medications according to a nationwide survey reported in the journal, Addiction. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America found that one-in-ten kids of middle and high school age are using psychiatric drugs such as Adderall or Ritalin without a prescription, reported the Washington Post in an article entitled, “A Dose of Genius; Smart Pills Are on the Rise; But Is Taking Them Wise?” MSNBC reports that parents now visit doctors to demand this drug for their children, in the hope of improving their children's report cards. Although no concrete statistics are available, the frequency of parents blaming ADD for a child's poor performance in school is becoming alarmingly common, according to MSNBC.

The New York Times reports that the prevailing mindset among college students is that “Adderall, the drug of choice these days, is a legitimate and even hip way to get through the rigors of a hectic academic and social life.” A computer science and economics major at Columbia University told the Times: “The culture here actually encourages people to use stimulants.”

A Columbia University writing-major, who received a diagnosis of ADHD in first grade, is a typical drug dealer who often sells her 10-milligram tablets for $5 to strangers or barters them with friends for meals, reports the Times. The attitude toward these drugs has changed drastically since her days in elementary school. “As a kid,” she told the Times, “I was made to feel different for taking these drugs. Now it's almost cool to take them.”

Young users simply do not think Adderall will actually harm them. “I don't think it counts as a drug anymore,” a New York University freshman told her student newspaper with a laugh. “It's like Tylenol.”

The catch is that (like athletes who use steroids) students who use Adderall to enhance academic performance are in many ways victims.

Loss of Creativity

“These medications allow you to be more structured and more rigid. That's the opposite of the impulsivity of creativity,” said Eric Heilingenstein, clinical director of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, to Washington Post/Newsweek's Slate Magazine in an article entitled “The Adderall Me.”

After experimenting with Adderall for a week, “The Adderall Me” author reported that “I felt less like myself. Though I could put more words to the page per hour on Adderall, I had a nagging suspicion that I was thinking with blinders on.” He found the same was true of others. “One writer friend who takes Adderall to read for long uninterrupted stretches told me that he uses it only rarely because he thinks it stifles his creativity.” A musician said he “finds it harder to make mental leaps on the drug.”

A writer said he thinks Adderall “stifles his creativity.” A musician said he “finds it harder to make mental leaps on the drug.”

Dependence, Tolerance and Withdrawal

Users feel euphoric and invincible while taking Adderall, but the next day without the drug, they often complain that they feel tired, “stupid,” or depressed.

“Over time, the body may come to depend on amphetamines just to function normally,” according to the Australian Drug Foundation's Better Health Channel. The user craves the drug and “their psychological dependence makes them panic if access is denied— even temporarily.”

Amphetamine users crave the drug and their psychological dependence makes them panic if access is denied—even temporarily.

Withdrawal symptoms can include tiredness, panic attacks, crankiness, extreme hunger, depression and nightmares. Some people experience a pattern of “binge crash” characterized by using continuously for several days without sleep, followed by a period of heavy sleeping, according to the Australian government report.

Chronic abuse of amphetamines produces a psychosis that resembles schizophrenia and is characterized by paranoia, picking at the skin, preoccupation with one's own thoughts, and auditory and visual hallucinations, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in its publication entitled, “Drugs of Abuse.”

Psychotic symptoms can persist for months and even years after use of these drugs has ceased, states the government report.

Is Anyone Listening? Is Anyone Watching?
Does Anyone Care?

From all indications, it appears the trend of greater reliance upon amphetamines will continue to soar.

More than ten years ago, the U.S. government loosened restrictions on Adderall, and all Schedule II drugs, whereby doctors may now prescribe as much as a 90-day supply. Patients may get three 30-day prescriptions dated a month apart so they can't be filled at once. Adderall is a “Schedule II” controlled substance, which means the U.S. government has determined it has a “high potential for abuse” that “may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence,” and for that reason, the Drug Enforcement Administration regulates the drug.

The effects of amphetamines are similar to cocaine, but the onset is slower and the duration is longer.

Chronic abuse produces a psychosis that resembles schizophrenia: paranoia, picking at the skin, preoccupation with one's own thoughts, and auditory and visual hallucinations.

ABOVE: Drug Enforcement Administration, US Department of Justice. “Amphetamines,” Drugs of Abuse Publication. National Drug Intelligence Center, 2005 ed. www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/abuse/5-stim.htm#Amphetamines.
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Adderall produces gross reductions in blood flow to the brain.

Decreased blood flow to the brain plays a major role in cognitive impairment, dementia and Alzheimer's.

ABOVE: Breggin, PR. The Ritalin Fact Book; Perseus Books Group, 2002. Abreu BE, et al. Influence of amphetamine sulfate on cerebral metabolism and blood flow in man. J Pharm Sci, 1949;38:186–188. Lombard J, et al. The Brain Wellness Plan; Kensington Pub. Corp., 1998. Mazza M, et al. Primary cerebral blood flow deficiency and Alzheimer's disease: shadows and lights. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease 2011;23(3):375-89.

What are the differences between the various Amphetamines?

BRAND GENERIC
Adderall amphetamine plus dextroamphetamine
[instant release]
Adderall XR amphetamine plus dextroamphetamine
[extended release]
Benzedrine amphetamine
[instant release]
Biphetamine amphetamine plus dextroamphetamine
Desoxyn methamphetamine
[instant release]
Dexedrine dextroamphetamine
[instant release]
Dexedrine SR dextroamphetamine
[extended release]
Dexedrine Spansule dextroamphetamine
[extended release]
Dextrostat dextroamphetamine
[instant release]
ProCentra dextroamphetamine
[immediate release, bubblegum flavor]
Vyvanse dextroamphetamine
with lysine (lisdexamfetamine)
[extended release]
  • ALTERNATE NAMES:
  • amphetamine = amfetamine = dl-amphetamine
  • dextroamphetamine = dexamfetamine
    = dexamphetamine = d-amphetamine
  • methamphetamine = d-methamphetamine

“Amphetamine, as with cocaine, can induce symptoms similar to those seen in obsessive disorder, panic disorder, and phobic disorders.”

ABOVE: Kaplan and Sadock's Synopsis of Psychiatry (2007) citing American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.