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GSU official: Campus Adderall abuse increases

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GSU official: Campus Adderall abuse increases

    John uses Adderall every day. “I probably shouldn’t have gotten on it,” he said.
    Adderall, in medical use for more than 50 years, is a mixture of four different amphetamines. Ordinarily, it's used to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy.
    In someone without those disorders, however, it acts like any other amphetamine — speeding up the body's metabolism and amping up the user. It also can enhance the user's focus and attention level, which makes it popular for students who need to pull an all-nighter studying or working on a class project.
    It's not all Einstein and roses, though. A one-time Statesboro user of the drug described why he took it once to help study and never again. "I felt cracked out," he said.
    The description isn't far off. Local law enforcement officials have compared the drug's use among college students to the rampant rise in methamphetamine abuse in the more rural areas of Bulloch County.
    The drug is easy to find. As a popular hyperactivity drug, millions of prescriptions are given out by doctors for it every year. On top of that, shady online pharmacies (the same places advertising cheap Viagra) can also get users the pills.
    “To a certain extent, I suppose they could be buying it to resell,” said David Matthews, head of the counseling center at Georgia Southern University. He has several patients that use the drug legitimately.
    He has patients who keep their Adderall on their person constantly because they’re afraid someone will steal it — especially around final exam time.
    “They let me know what the going price is,” he said.
    John’s use of the drug is legal — but he said that abuse of the drug could easily be found at GSU.
     During finals one year, he said several people asked him for pills. They’re widely available, he said, for as little as $2 to $3 a pop. He fills his prescription and gets 90 of the pills for about $10, he said.
    “I know a bunch of people who take it,” he said. “They’re drunk and they want to stay up, they want to study, or they have a long day ahead of them.”
    The drug has risks, Matthews warned. For one, people who aren’t using Adderall under a doctor’s supervision can buy or borrow a pill without knowing how strong it is. That can lead to heart palpitations, sweating or insomnia.
    Many users aren’t worried about letting people know they’re taking the pills. A look at Facebook over Winter finals at GSU revealed several students who stated plainly in their status lines that they were using Adderall to help study.
    Joyce Stubbs, director of the Bulloch County Drug and Alcohol Council, said her organization has seen an upswing in prescription drug abuse.
    “We’re seeing more and more of it in our young people that we work with here,” she said. “People seem to find misusing prescription drugs as more accepted by society, so they don’t feel that they’re doing anything particularly wrong.”
    Paul Ferguson of the GSU Health Center agreed. “It’s increasingly becoming one of our biggest problems,” he said. “There’s appropriate use of various prescription drugs, but there’s also abuse, and it’s usually around times when students or anybody can least afford to use them.”
    After failing out of GSU once (“not lack of concentration, it was going out every night,” he said), John returned to class in 2002. His brothers had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), so he went to the university’s counseling center.
    He was tested, diagnosed with mild ADD, and prescribed Adderall at GSU’s Health Center. He’s now a senior, and taking three 10mg pills every day, careful not to go over the recommended dosage.
    “At first, it really helped me,” he said. “It gave me energy. I had motivation — it was a stimulant for me.”
    While on the drug, John would go outside on nice days and look forward to studying.
    “As class progressed, I felt like I wasn’t getting enough done, so I asked them to up my dosage,” he said.
    He gets regular checkups from a doctor, and the only concern from using the drug has been an elevated heart rate. Over time though, he said the drug doesn’t have the same effect it used to. At first, he couldn’t fall asleep while on Adderall, but now he can. He said he also sometimes feels antisocial and annoyed by other people.
    “It puts me in a bad mood,” he said. “It’s gotten to where I’m more dependent on it now — I don’t know why.”
    Matthews said that the dosage required doesn’t usually go up, unless a patient feels they need more of the drug because of additional demands on their attention and need to focus.
    John blames Adderall for making him drink much more than he used to. “When you’re done with your stuff to do, and the Adderall’s still in your system, especially time-released, and you have nothing to do, you tend to pace and you’re jittery,” he said.
    “You’ll want to go out and have a beer, and when you have one, you don’t feel like you’re getting drunk, because Adderall keeps you focused … you end up taking shot after shot after shot, and the next thing you know, you’re blasted out of your gourd.”
    Mixing Adderall with alcohol is risky, Matthews said. “Kids that are borrowing it from someone else to help study, they don’t know how long it’s going to be in their system,” he said. “They’re acting out of ignorance.”
    John said the drawbacks have begun to outweigh the drug’s benefits, and he plans to quit “cold turkey” after he graduates.
    If he quit now, “I’d feel really lethargic, and I don’t know if I’d have the energy and the motivation to finish up school,” he said.
    Matthews said the off-prescription use of Adderall brings up ethical issues. If a friend or roommate asks for a pill from someone who’s using it legally, it’s inappropriate and illegal, he explained — but it still happens.
     “Should we be allowed free choice of taking stimulant medication?” he asked. “It’s like some of the others uses for drugs for which you don’t have a documented diagnosis, but it still helps you achieve the desired effect that you want for yourself. It happens.”

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