Misuse of stimulants poses health risks


photo by Maribeth Eiken

George Sarafianos

feature photo by Maribeth Eiken
feature photo by Maribeth Eiken
The first time junior Madeline Perry took Adderall was when her boyfriend introduced it to her during her sophomore year. Having since been prescribed for Adderall to treat her Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Perry is one of many students who use the drug for daily life.
Labeled as the “study drug,” Adderall contains central nervous system stimulants: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, both of which affect areas of the brain relating to both hyperactivity and impulse control. With attention and focus being the primary concern in high school settings, abuse of Adderall became commonplace.
The abuse of the drug has been steadily increasing since 2009, according to drugfree.org.
“There’s been a lot of times where I’ve been approached by either my friends, or my classmates to see if I’ll sell my medication to them,” Perry said. “I never do it because my dad rations them to me one per day. If I were to sell my one pill for the day to one of my friends, then I wouldn’t get to take it, which I like doing because I definitely think it helps with my studies.”
While students often only see benefit in a drug such as Adderall, it can pose serious health threats, said licensed psychologist at the University of Missouri—Columbia, Dr. Deborah Wright, in an email interview.
“Individuals may develop tolerance to stimulant medication (i.e., addiction). Stimulant medication can increase the risk for cardiac problems in some individuals including increase in blood pressure and risk of heart attacks,” Wright said. “Stimulant medication can also increase anxiety. There is also concern that it can suppress growth in children.”
Prescription medication abuse is specifically forbidden in the RBHS student handbook. Because of this strict policy, the punishment for illegal possession of prescription drugs at RBHS is currently arrest, as well as a 10-day suspension, School Resource Officer, Keisha Edwards said.
“One thing that myself, the administrators and staff members here at RBHS are good at is knowing who we are around every single day. Our teachers are good at knowing the students in their classrooms. I am good at knowing the kids who are in the hallways. The principals are good at knowing the kids that come into their offices. But what we are really good at is knowing what they look like every single day,” Edwards said. “Every single day when kids come into school they have one of several looks on their faces; either they’re sleepy, frustrated, what have you. But there is this look in their eyes every single day, and we get used to that look. And when that look isn’t the same one that we are used to, we know something is wrong.”
The diagnosis of Attention Defect Disorder relies heavily on the patient’s self report of their own symptoms, Wright said. Because of this, doctors diagnosing the illness must cautious.
“The symptoms of ADHD are well known and diagnosis, in part, is reliant on self report. Thus, the symptoms are easy to fabricate. Part of the diagnostic process relies on “self-report”, or the symptoms of a patient as reported by that patient. In that sense, it is relatively easy to fabricate symptoms,” Wright said. “However, other parts of the diagnostic process require information from other individuals; in the case of minors, parents and teachers are asked about symptoms. Additional cognitive testing is often required in order to rule out learning disorders and/or other issues that may cause “ADHD-like” symptoms.”
By George Sarafianos