The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

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    Adderall: A Debilitating Drug

    Adderall: A Debilitating Drug
    Andrzej Tokarski – Fotolia

    The anxious feeling before an important exam is familiar to many high school students.  Pressure is high to maintain good grades while being involved in sports and activities.  College expectations are growing stronger and stronger each year.  Between finals, ACTs, and college entrance exams, stress levels are skyrocketing.  While it is normal for high school teens to become worried about their school work, one method to handle the stress is growing rapidly in high schools and colleges across the country — prescription Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder medication.

    What is it?

    Adderall, Vyvanse, and Ritalin are all common brands of what is widely referred to as “the study drug.”  The drugs themselves are amphetamines.  This type of drug is a stimulant and very addictive — it is ranked as a Class 2 controlled substance, the same ranking as cocaine and morphine, according to a New York Times article published in 2012.  Although they have a medicinal purpose, they are widely abused and sold for recreational use.

    What does the drug do to the body?

    Amphetamines and dextroamphetamines are found in prescription drugs such as Adderall or Vyvanse.  These stimulants are often helpful to those who do in fact have ADHD, because they help the patient stay focused throughout the day.  The combination of stimulants are said to “change the amounts of certain natural substances, or neurotransmitters, in the brain,” according to the National Institute of Health.  A Columbia Science Review article explains that Adderall has a similar chemical structure to hormones such as epinephrine, or adrenaline, and dopamine.  These hormones release chemicals that make people feel happy and ecstatic, along with a rush of motivation from the adrenaline.  Part of the reason why these drugs are abused so regularly is because of the euphoric feelings they provide for those few hours.  This doesn’t seem too bad, until the effects of the medication begin to wear off.

    What are the side effects?

    Like any medicinal drugs, amphetamines like Adderall have their fair share of side effects.  According to Web MD, a medicine and health informational site, side effects of Adderall include weight loss and loss of appetite, dry mouth, stomach pain, headaches, dizziness, increased blood pressure, and trouble sleeping.  Aside from the physical side effects of the stimulants, depressed moods also could occur.  Because of the release of dopamine in the brain, when the medication wears off, it often leaves the person feeling upset, anxious, and irritable.

    Why has it become a problem in high schools?

    According to a 2012 New York Times article, this “wonder drug” has been discovered by high school aged teens across the country.  When a student tries it for the first time, usually to prepare for a large exam, they become hooked on the effects it has.  The drugs that usually calm people with ADHD have an opposite effect for those who do not — keeping them awake and aware, allowing for instant recall and focus on the task at hand.

    School Resource Officer Robert Uliks is aware that Adderall is used at LHS.

    “The Adderall usage at Libertyville High School seems to have diminished a bit.  It still exists but not like it used to,” Officer Uliks said.

    Students that were interviewed anonymously who use Adderall or Vyvanse all said they use the stimulants to study for and take tests, finish projects, and prepare for final exams.

    “Buying Vyvanse is a pretty regular part of my test preparation routine.  It helps me stay focused on studying when my mind would normally be focused on anything besides that.  I think my test scores have gone up because of it,” said one senior at LHS who would like to go unnamed due to the fact that they are not prescribed the drug and could get in trouble for taking it. This student said they began taking Vyvanse at the beginning of sophomore year.

    Other students who were interviewed did not have only good things to say about the drugs.

    “When I take [Adderall], I feel like I’m on top of the world.  School work becomes the most interesting thing and I’m 100% motivated to get it done.  But when it wears off, I get a painful headache and feel like screaming at everyone around me, so I can’t decide if it’s even worth it or not,” an anonymous junior said.

    Even teens who have had the medication prescribed to them have had negative things to say about what it did to their bodies.

    “The first few times I took it, it was like a wonder drug. I could focus and it was really difficult to become distracted. But it was so difficult to focus on anything other than school work. I couldn’t have a conversation with anyone for the life of me and it heightened my anxiety a lot,”
    said an anonymous senior student.  “Eventually I had to keep going higher and higher with the doses, which meant eating way less. I lost 10 pounds and completely depended on the Vyvanse to give me energy to get through the day. The worst of all was that I felt speedy and shaky and empty every day, but I couldn’t function without it. I honestly looked and felt sick after being on it for a few months, and knew I had to get off of it for the sake of my health and well being.”

    Prescriptions for the amphetamines are becoming increasingly easy to obtain, according to the New York Times article.  Teens can fake the symptoms of ADHD to their parents and doctors, resulting in a prescription for a low dosage of the medication.  When the “symptoms” continue, doctors will typically prescribe a higher dosage, which students deem acceptable for selling to peers and using themselves to focus on schoolwork.

    Not only can these drugs have harsh side effects, but selling them in school is a serious matter.  According to Officer Uliks, selling drugs such as Adderall and Vyvanse is a Class X felony.

    “Students who are caught selling or taking the drugs illegally will spend a night in jail and then have to appear before a judge.  It’s Class X, which is the worst if you’re on school grounds or even within 1,000 feet of a school — it’s classified as possession and distribution, and is even more serious than selling weed because of the schedule those drugs are in, ” Uliks said.

    Aside from consuming the drugs to help with studying, teens abuse them in other ways as well.  Mixing amphetamines with pills like Xanax can produce highs that are life threatening, according to Officer Uliks.

    “Misusing prescription drugs can be very tragic.  There was a big problem in the North Shore a couple years ago, where kids attending parties would each bring different types of pills and put them all in a bowl.  They’d grab a couple, not knowing what they were, and took them to see what would happen.  It can be fatal,” Officer Uliks said.

    There have been initiatives taken to prevent the distribution of these drugs in school, the most important being the random dog searches.

    “Adderall, Vicodin, cocaine, marijuana, heroin, morphine, and oxyconton can all be sniffed out by the drug dog here at LHS,” Officer Uliks said.


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    Adderall: A Debilitating Drug