EditorialsVolume 9, Spring 2015

Addicted to Adderall

Osman Moneer1,

Jacqueline Lawson2,

Julia Joern3,

Theresa Mensah4

1 Columbia University,
2 Department of Neuroscience, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA,
3 Department of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA,
4 Department of Biochemistry, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA


In college student’s everyday struggle of completing assignment after assignment, the au naturel approach doesn’t always cut it. Substances are often used to bridge the gap to allow students to meet the ideal level of academic rigor while maintaining a desired lifestyle. In the realm of “study drugs,” caffeine plays a significant role, keeping students awake and alert, but Adderall reigns supreme.

Intended to alleviate difficulties associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), Adderall touts a greater focus and increased alertness. But, defining and diagnosing ADHD is a fairly difficult and subjective process. The National Institute of Mental Health states that those with ADHD may experience symptoms such as “difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity (over-activity),” but provides no explanation as to its causes. The lack of understanding surrounding ADHD, given its unknown origins and vague symptoms yields issues in diagnosing ADHD and determining who actually needs to use the drugs designed for it.

Because of this confusion, Adderall is one of the most commonly used drugs by college students, who often lack even a prescription to justify their use. 30% of students abuse ADHD medication such as Adderall, and an estimated 81% of students believe ADHD medication is not dangerous. Students like Adderall because it makes them “smarter,” and if negative consequences of the drug are this unclear, who wouldn’t want this additional focus? Ethical considerations aside – what are we to make of this? How does Adderall interact biochemically and is it detrimental to one’s health?