It was 10 p.m. and James had yet to begin a six-page history assignment due the next morning, and he knew he couldn’t stay awake on his own.
“That was the first time I took Adderall,” James said. “I felt optimized, like I was using my time in the most efficient way possible. I was very excited to do the assignment when I had very little motivation prior.”
A Schedule II-controlled substance available by prescription, Adderall is considered the niche medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Despite the fact that the drug is only available through a prescription, a March study by Texas State University and Trinity College revealed that of 149 students sampled, 36 percent distributed their medication to other students the previous year.
Though necessary for users with ADHD, Adderall has an additional allure. Among college students like James, its enhancing properties make it the “study drug” of choice.
“Stimulant medications, such as Adderall, are amphetamines,” said Lucas Hill, an assistant professor at the College of Pharmacy. “They act very similarly to methamphetamine, resulting in desired effects such as euphoria, increased energy and enhanced focus.”
Zoe Chilton, a chemical engineering freshman with an Adderall prescription, said she noticed an increased demand for Adderall since entering college.
“When I was in high school, people knew I had Adderall but no one ever asked to buy (it),” Chilton said. “But now (in college) whenever I mention I have Adderall, there’s an immediate, ‘Can I have some?’ or, ‘Do you know where I can get some?’ I mean, everyone I know takes it to help them study.”
Although Adderall energizes and helps users maintain focus, studies suggest it does not aid in cognition. The results of a 2017 study in “Addictive Behaviors,” an international journal, show no difference in GPA increase among three groups of students who used medical stimulants without a prescription, while a fourth group of non-users showed significant improvement in GPA.
In a hypercompetitive university setting like UT, however, Adderall retains its place as a study drug distributed among friends to power through all-nighters. However, Chilton said non-users face social
pressures to take the stimulant.
“People are going to take (Adderall),” Chilton said. “Do you want to be the person who can’t stay awake and get lower grades because these other people are taking it? I don’t think these people are criminals, they’re just trying to be successful in college.”
Editor’s Note: James’ last name has been omitted for his privacy.