Recently in the news and in pharmacies across the nation there has been talk of prescription drug shortages. One medication which is in high demand is the drug Adderall, which is prescribed for people with ADHD. Adderall is an amphetamine that causes a person’s dopamine and norepinephrine levels to rise to make the person more alert, giving them increased focus and improved concentration.
One reason which has been suggested for the shortage is that too many high school and college students are using it as a study drug to stay up all night and cram for exams. Some blame doctors, who are all too willing to prescribe it to patients suffering from a lack of concentration. With so many people taking the drug it leaves those suffering from ADHD without their medications and unable to function.
“My pharmacy has been greatly affected by the shortage,” said Dr. Josh Fitzgerald, a Utah pharmacist. “Most methylphenidate medications have not been available for almost a year. Every family practitioner and pediatrician is writing out ADHD prescriptions even though many of them have no idea how to diagnose it. It’s mainly due to parents who think their kid has ADHD and want a prescription. There are people who have real ADHD but I think it’s over prescribed in general. Every kid has ADHD. Kids by nature are easily distracted and can’t focus. It’s up to the parent to help them learn how to focus and behave normally. In some instances there are kids who have difficulty with this and ADHD medications are a great option, but in my opinion these are rare cases that should be treated by a behavioral health doctor.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, close to 10 percent of children were diagnosed with ADHD in a 2007 study and more than 47 million prescriptions were written in 2010 alone.
“Adderall is currently one of the most frequently prescribed drugs in the United States,” according to adderallsideeffects.org. “Unfortunately, many individuals who have been prescribed the drug are unaware of what it actually does and what side effects it may be causing them to experience. Even more alarming is the fact that a multitude of college students and other adults abuse the drug in an effort to get high, to have more energy, or to lose weight. Even for users who have been issued a prescription, Adderall has a high potential for abuse and addiction. In the body, it acts as does the serious drug, methylphenidate, and can cause seizures, heart attacks, high blood pressure, stroke, and death.”
Students say it helps them get an edge, study all night and cram for tests. Mothers say it helps them keep up with their kids and housework, all while helping them to eat less and lose weight. Health experts say it can cause a number of side effects, from anxiety to psychosis and even death. It has been taken off the shelves and banned in Canada as it has been reported to have caused at least 20 deaths.
“I experienced mental side effects from taking Adderall,” said one SLCC student who wished to remain anonymous. “I had major social anxiety and couldn’t leave the house. I couldn’t talk to anyone and couldn’t remember things. It changed me. What good is it if you ace a test and then can’t remember anything a month later? It negates the whole purpose of going to school in the first place.”
E-mail, Facebook, movies, food and many other things can sometimes make us think we have ADHD. When we add worthwhile things such as work, school, kids, friends and family to the mix, popping a pill can seem much easier to help us cope with distractions than changing our overall lifestyle, but is it the healthiest or safest?
“On Adderall, I was able to work in hourlong chunks,” wrote Joshua Foer of Slate.com. “I didn’t feel like I was becoming smarter or even like I was thinking more clearly. I just felt more directed, less distracted by rogue thoughts, less day-dreamy. I felt like I was clearing away underbrush that had been obscuring my true capabilities. At the same time, 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.”
Eric Heiligenstein is the clinical director of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin who told Foer that such effects are common.
“It’s something I’ve heard consistently,” he said. “These medications allow you to be more structured and more rigid. That’s the opposite of the impulsivity of creativity.””
There are a number of ways to help with ADHD-like symptoms. These include exercise, yoga, healthy eating, limiting caffeine and sugar intake, vitamin supplements, meditating, asking for help, getting enough sleep, cutting out distractions as much as possible and finding support. Health and Wellness Services at SLCC offers resources and counseling for students wanting to improve their health.
Visit http://www.slcc.edu/hw/ to find out more.