Finals are coming, and on college campuses across the country, students are indulging in extra espresso shots in their coffee and chugging Red Bulls to help keep them going through the night. But it’s not just coffee and energy drinks we’re using these days; the number of students using Adderall is rising and they’re talking about it on Twitter. A lot.
Normally, Twitter’s the place to go when you want to complain about school and exams and generally engage in a little TMI. However, researchers are also using Twitter to monitor activity relating to the prescription pill designed to help those with ADHD. In lieu of surveys and questionnaires, which can be biased as some students choose not to divulge information regarding drugs, researchers collected tweets by keywords. This also proved useful in tracking the geographical locations of the users. Over a six month period, they collected over 213,000 tweets from roughly 132,000 unique user accounts. They found that students tweet about Adderall more towards the middle of the week and most during finals and exam seasons, implying that the drug is used less as a weekend party drug and more as a study aid. Tweets like, “I need Adderall…can’t focus on studying” were commonplace alongside tweets mentioning sleep deprivation and stress.
ADHD is a psychostimulant most often used to treat ADHD or narcolepsy. Surprisingly, students who have a prescription tend to share, not sell, the drug. Such a trend suggests that students don’t think sharing Adderall is dangerous; if anything, they feel they’re lending their friends a hand – sharing the wealth, so the speak. The study also points out that Adderall use tends to be higher at universities with stricter admission standards. It begs the question, are our university curricula too demanding or are students trying to take the easy way out from their academic loads?
Particularly at more selective universities, high-achieving students feel an enormous pressure to succeed. These students will go to great lengths to fulfill their need to exceed expectations, like taking Adderall to stay up night after night with little to no sleep. For students who genuinely suffer from ADHD and related medical concerns, they had no choice in the need to take Adderall. Therefore, those students with Adderall prescriptions fall on two polarizing ends: some feel a little sharing to help friends focus during finals season is harmless while others see its abuse as cheating – akin to using steroids for your brain. Moreover, its flippant use implies college students aren’t aware or just don’t care about the repercussions (like dependency, insomnia, and anxiety to name some) of using Adderall when you don’t need it. Universities should take note of this trend because it poses significant dangers to a student population ignorant of the dangers misusing Adderall. Most college students see Adderall as harmless, which makes it all the harder to control its abuse.