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Adderall abuse is more common than ever in the United States, a new study by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests.
The drug, which is commonly prescribed to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is abused among young adults who hope for increased levels of concentrations, most often during high-stakes exams like midterms and finals. Especially among college-aged adults (between 18 to 25 years old), Adderall abuse has been rising since 2006. Though the number of prescriptions for the drug has remained the same, the number of emergency room visits associated with misuse of the drug has skyrocketed in this demographic.
A 2015 University of South Carolina study estimates that one in six college students misuses Adderall. According to Ramin Mojtabai, a professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, a growing number of these students use the drug to “stay up all night and cram…a sizeable proportion of those who use them believe these medications make them smarter and more capable of studying.” This perception of increased intellectual ability is not only false, but also detrimental; taking any prescription medications without a prescription can lead to serious adverse effects and potentially permanent damage.
Known side effects of the drug include: sleep disruption and high blood pressure as well as increased risks for aggressive behavior, strokes, depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions.
The Johns Hopkins study examined data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Drug Abuse Warning Network, and the National Disease and Therapeutic Index, and concluded that emergency room visits related to Adderall misuse rose 156 percent. In addition, the number of individuals taking Adderall without a prescription rose 67 percent. 60 percent of users without a prescription were young adults 18 to 25 years old.
Scientists and medical health professionals urge students to rethink taking Adderall. As Dr. Mojtabai stated in a press release with Science Daily, though many students believe these types of stimulant medications are “harmless study aids, there can be serious health risks and they need to be more aware.”