Don’t Let Adderall End the Party Early
When finals start, the Adderall flows. The practice of taking Adderall before an exam has evolved into a relatively accepted practice among college students. But what happens when you pop a pill before your first beer on Friday night?
It’s 6 o’clock and the beginning of the weekend. All your friends are already picking out their outfits and putting on their makeup for a long night of drinking.
“How am I going to go out tonight?,” you think to yourself as you flop onto your bed.
After a long week of classes and exams, the exhaustion has overtaken you.
Right when you think you’ll just stay in for the night, your friend hands you an Adderall.
Adderall is a brand-named medication prescribed to individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD causes people to become fidgety, inattentive, and overly impulsive. So, for these individuals, the results are calming. Users are able to stay focused, and keep hyperactive impulses under control.
For individuals who don’t have ADHD, the results are not so calming. The increase of dopamine in the brain causes increased alertness, clarity, and focus. The overstimulation jolts users awake.
So, when your friend hands you a pill, you accept. Your group project zapped all the energy you had left, but you think that Adderall will give you the alertness that you need to get out of bed and start getting ready.
Young people across the nation are abusing the drug in an effort to stay up later, and drink more heavily. A study in Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy found that more than half of Adderall abusers drank alcohol while on the medication.
“A 2013 federal study found that in the second half of the past decade, the number of visits to emergency departments because of “non-medical” use of ADHD drugs tripled. The increase was concentrated among 18-to-25-year-olds,” says Anne Saker, a reporter for Cincinnati.com
In July 2014, Josh Levine, became one of those emergency room patients. The 22-year-old from Chicago decided to snort Adderall before drinking with his friends, a practice that many young adults are accustomed to. On his walk home from the party, Josh collapsed on the sidewalk and was found unconscious by a stranger.
“Adderall may keep a person awake and potentially shut off the internal cues telling the body that it has had enough alcohol, causing someone to continue to drink. This can possibly result in alcohol poisoning as alcohol reaches toxic levels in the bloodstream,” says American Addiction Centers.
“I took one look at his eyes, and I knew he was brain dead,” said Julie Buckner when she saw her son in the hospital
The stress that Adderall and alcohol puts on the heart can also cause severe cardiovascular side effects. Adderall’s stimulation of the central nervous system and alcohol’s depression of the central nervous system can cause an arrhythmia, which may lead to a heart attack. Although the risk is real, not every college student dies from using Adderall to stay awake and party. Mixing the two substances can also cause the user to have an increased heart rate, increased body temperature, severe headache, blurred vision, dizziness and vomiting.
In 2009, the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine cited a case of a 20-year-old male college freshman who experienced a fatal heart-attack after multiple nights of drinking, while also taking the medication. Even without an underlying heart condition, the combination can become lethal because of the stress that it puts on the heart.
Users also may experience negative emotional responses. They can easily become anxious, depressed, irritable or even aggressive. College students tend to ignore, or not understand the damage that abusing prescription stimulants can actually cause to their bodies.
“I didn’t think it could be bad. At first I thought, ‘It’s medicine, right? It shouldn’t hurt me like crack or something,” said Lexi, a college student who was addicted to Adderall.
Adderall is so widespread and readily available that it has the reputation of being safe. It doesn’t have the same stigma as other drugs. If everyone is using it, how can it be dangerous? This common misconception is perpetuating the problem of prescription drug abuse.
The truth is, abusing Adderall can cause severe consequences.
“These kids have no idea that they are playing with fire,” says Josh Levine’s mother.
Ways to REACT:
- SPREAD the word. Tell your friends about the hidden health risks of mixing Adderall and alcohol.
- HEAR Josh Levine’s story. Watch Julie Buckner speak about her son’s fatal decision to drink and snort Adderall.
- KNOW the signs of Adderall addiction and long term effects of abuse. Visit www.americanaddictioncenters.org.
- GET HELP if you think you have a problem abusing medication. Visit www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov to find a treatment center near you.
- GET INVOLVED. Visit Partnership for Drug Free Kids to learn about “opportunities to advocate for fairer laws, increased funding for treatment and prevention and to make medicine abuse a priority on Capitol Hill.”