FCLC Students Resort to Adderall to Study

Administrators Emphasize Consequences


An increasing number of college students are resorting to the illegal use of prescription drugs to help them study. (Melanie Burford/MCT)

Published: November 15, 2007

It’s 3 a.m., finals week. You still have an essay to write and an exam to study for, but concentrating is impossible: your brain is fuzzy and lack of sleep threatens to overtake you. Three options for turning your weariness into productivity: drinking a strong cup of coffee, taking a short power nap and praying you actually wake up or hitting up the campus drug dealer.

For a growing number of students—both at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) and at other colleges across the nation—the third option has become increasingly attractive. Adderall, according to the drug’s official Web site, is prescribed to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, as is Ritalin, a similar drug. However, both drugs are routinely abused by college students in order to increase focus, concentration and energy when studying or doing homework, reported The New York Times.

“I don’t think I would’ve made it through midterms and finals last year if I didn’t take Adderall,” said Lindsay*, an FCLC sophomore. “I never thought I would’ve used drugs to stay awake before I came to college…but once you try it you realize it’s a great way to get things done, and it’s fairly easy to get,” she said. Lindsay stated that she obtained Adderall last year from Scott, FCLC ‘10.

Scott said that he sold approximately “25 to 50 pills” of Adderall during midterms last year. However, Scott also stated that, for the most part, he acted as a “middleman” between students who wanted pills and a student who had a prescription for them.

According to Lindsay and other on-campus sources, demand for Adderall increases exponentially around exam time, but some students use it throughout the entire school year. “My roommates last year used it every time they had to write a paper,” said Tori, FCLC ’10.

According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), the percentage of college students who abuse Ritalin and Adderall has increased 93 percent since 1993.

Scott stated that he sold Adderall pills for approximately $2 to $4 each. He did say, however, that others selling Adderall around midterms could probably charge even more because demand for the drug becomes so high.

Lindsay reported that she paid $5 or less per pill for Adderall, and that the super-focused effect of the drug lasted about six hours. “[One of my friends] was like an expert, and she even had a pill grinder,” Lindsay said. “We would just crush it in the pill grinder and then snort it off a flat surface, like a mirror, with straws or rolled-up dollar bills.”  According to Lindsay, most students swallow the drug when taking it. However, Lindsay said that she sometimes snorted Adderall because it “hits you faster and stronger” when snorted.

Multiple FCLC students reported that they consider Adderall a “safer” alternative to other narcotics because it is prescribed by doctors. However, Kathleen Malara, director of Health Services at Fordham stated that the use of Adderall commonly causes abdominal pain, nausea, dizziness, heart palpitations, tremors and libido changes. More serious consequences include Tourette’s syndrome, heart attack, stroke, cardiac arrhythmia, high blood pressure, seizures and sudden death. Adderall is also an appetite suppressant, known to lead to weight loss and anorexia. In addition, said Malara, students who snort Adderall incur the “[additional] risk of damage to the nasal [passages].”

FCLC dean of students Keith Eldredge added, “When prescription drugs are prescribed by a doctor, they can be monitored to ensure that there are no conflicts with other drugs the student may be taking. Taken illegally, there [are no such safeguards],” he said.

The death of a student at Westminster Choir College earlier this month is thought to have occurred after the student took multiple doses of Adderall followed by heroin, The New York Times reported.

Malara said that Adderall has a host of mental side effects as well as physical ones. These side effects include depression, psychosis, mania, aggressive behavior, emotional instability and anxiety.

“There was one time I took it,” Lindsay said, “where I had a really bad reaction. I took two, and I was way too focused—I was shaking the entire time and I was really jumpy and nervous,” she said.

Eldredge said nearly 10 percent of FCLC students reported using amphetamines, the category of drugs into which Adderall is placed, in 2007. Nationally, 6.6 percent of students reported using amphetamines. Eldredge pointed out, however, that “students may not consider Adderall an amphetamine because it is a prescription drug,” so the numbers may inaccurately reflect the extent of Adderall abuse.

Eldredge cautions, however, that students found distributing drugs on campus face severe consequences. “Students [caught dealing] will be put through the judicial process and can risk loss of housing or expulsion from the university.”

Malara cautions that students who misuse Adderall not only “run the risk of a federal offense if caught,” but are also vulnerable to developing an addiction or dependency.

In addition, students who use the drug to lose weight are at an even higher risk of becoming addicted, according to information provided by Megan Siemers, assistant director for programming at FCLC.

Students who do find themselves with an addiction or dependency, said Eldredge, should reach out for help. “We certainly wouldn’t [impose disciplinary action] upon a student who came to us for help,” said Eldredge. “We’ll try to connect them with the counseling center and the health center.”

Malara added, “no students have come to Student Health Services disclosing their use and/or abuse of Adderall.”

Scott said that he believes the increasing pressure to succeed in college has driven students to drugs. “I think that kids have been groomed for so long that everything is hyper-competitive, and that the stakes are so high that [students feel that they] can’t afford any mistakes,” he said. “In reality, at close to $50,000 a year, the stakes are pretty high when it comes to maintaining your GPA for scholarships. However, I am absolutely confident that no one needs Ritalin or Adderall to do well. To be frank, I never found them to be very helpful at all. I think the stuff is overrated.”