FADerall: The critics who cried crisis

By Caitlin Carver | gargoyle@flagler.edu

“Academic Doping!” “College Crack!” cry the news articles, which all seem to portray the 20.4 million college students in this country as amphetamine fiends.

The abuse of stimulant Attention Deficit Disorder medications like Adderall among college kids has become a hot button topic for parents and political pundits, all speculating and over analyzing.

Article after article, the masses are invited to read a generic horror story of a 20-something college student, without a prescription, who abused the medication once and went “crazy.” The story always ends with the remorseful student offering warnings of the life-ruining effects. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the 1930s propaganda film “Reefer Madness” in which the effects of marijuana are over-hyped and dramatized to satirical heights.

As a documented and legitimate ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) sufferer being prescribed Adderall, I made it my mission to look at both sides of this issue. What I found is that only one side is being reported. Trying to Google even seemingly positive phrases like “number of students legally prescribed Adderall” and “Adderall helping students” are met with the same overwhelmingly negative headlines.

“6.4 percent of college students have used Adderall non medically,” screams the National Institute of Mental Health. Incidentally this one statistic is quoted again and again in the thousands of scare pieces I found on the Internet. No wonder people are tense about this subject. It sounds like an epidemic! Who wouldn’t be worried after scanning the articles that portray colleges as one big self-dispensing pharmacy and insinuate that the word “student” should be replaced by “junkie?”

But it’s not thwarting the efforts of the handful of students who bought Adderall once to study for finals, but rather the ADD sufferers in the college world who can no longer readily access the help they need because of a doctor’s new fear that they are faking symptoms and abusing their meds like all the news stories suggest.

I saw the unfairness first hand this month when I decided to switch my ADHD care from a doctor back home to a new psychiatrist closer to my college.

I walked into her office for the first time and it took her about 3 minutes to recognize two things: I was young and I was in college. Despite 6 years of medical records my old doctor had sent over and multiple confirmations of my diagnosis, she immediately asked to call my mom to verify that I wasn’t an Adderall slinging drug pusher!

While we all understand why a doctor would be careful when dispensing a schedule 2 drug, wasn’t calling my mother a bit unnecessary after my other doctors had sent over my medical documents? It seemed to say, “I know your type, you no good college kid drug seeker.”

This isn’t an isolated incident. Once I began talking to other students, I found that most 20-somethings prescribed similar medications have the same story.

The over-dramatization of Adderall may be filling space in newspapers, but it’s also probably filling the heads of doctors who may stop prescribing it out of a Salem Witch trial-esque fear of “dopers.”

Let’s put it in perspective: If 6.4 percent of college students have tried Adderall, that is the equivalent of 1.5 million people. ONE AND A HALF MILLION! Seems like a lot at first glance, but if you take into account the other side, the other 19 million who aren’t trying to cop their fellow students medication, I’d say this situation’s not as drastic as it’s being made out to be.

While there is a small percent of the population who have abused prescription medication — 8.3 percent to be exact according to the National Survey on Drug Use — does that mean we should silence the 15 million people suffering with ADD from seeking help if they so choose?

The voice of college ADD sufferers has all but been extinguished by the hot air produced by this country’s critics and their dramatic portrayal of the issue.

We need to stop treating the larger majority of afflicted college students who aren’t doing anything wrong as drug seekers and, to borrow the words of Pink Floyd, “leave those kids alone.”

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