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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Adderall: The epidemic that no one is talking about

Imagine this scenario: you’re a college student with two exams this week, an essay to write, a part-time job and a pile of laundry that’s been staring at you from across the room, begging to be cleaned. Your advisor keeps pressuring you to apply for a summer internship, you haven’t been to the gym in a while and your significant other has been nagging you to find enough time to take them on a date.

Now imagine if someone offered you a pill, and told you that all you have to do is swallow it, and your schedule would clear up. You could write that paper in just a few hours, hit the gym, go to work, apply for an internship, have dinner with your girlfriend and come home with enough energy to finally run that load of laundry. 

Would you take it? It seems too good to be true. 

You think to yourself, “could this really work?” You ask your friends if they have heard of this mysterious miracle pill. To your surprise, they admit they have. They tell you everyone takes them, your classmates, coworkers and peers. 

Now would you take it? If everyone else is taking them, it sure feels like you’d be at a disadvantage in an environment where hyper-competitiveness and overachieving are ingrained in your minds.

You decide to take it. It makes you feel weird. You don’t seem like yourself. You’re quieter, more aggressive and jittery. Nevertheless, you take another the next day. And the next day. And the next day. Soon enough, you can’t remember a life before the pill. You feel like you have superpowers.

Adderall is a drug used to treat attention deficit disorder, a chronic condition that causes hyperactivity, inducing impulsiveness and the inability to focus. For people who struggle with attention deficit disorder, an Adderall prescription is a total game-changer, allowing them to function at the same level as neurotypical individuals. 

The problem is, chronic condition or not, Adderall functions as a performance-enhancing drug, enabling students to operate and perform at a superhuman level. In a hypercompetitive environment in which students are constantly compared to each other, Adderall abuse has become an epidemic in the United States. 

And why wouldn’t it be? Adderall is everywhere — it’s easy to find, it’s cheap and it allows students to tackle the myriad of responsibilities that young adults are expected to complete. All by just taking one tiny pill. 

It’s no wonder that the American Addiction Center reports that the largest age range of people who are abusing the drug without a prescription or medical need are 18-to-25-year-olds, many of whom are in college. 

Unfortunately, Adderall abuse can have serious consequences ranging from extreme sleep deprivation to death. The dangerous effects can be heightened when mixed with alcohol, which raises concerns amongst students who use the drug not only academically but in a party setting. 

Adderall is not chemically designed for brains without attention deficit disorder. It was not created for students to pull all-nighter at the library, have the energy to hit the gym or stay awake and party. It was created to treat a chronic condition. Any other form of Adderall usage is mistreatment of the drug and is not only damaging to health and safety — but is also illegal.

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So, what can be done to address the Adderall abuse epidemic? It is already a schedule two controlled drug, meaning there is little to be done from a regulatory standpoint. The best way to solve this problem is to dive into the root of the epidemic — the pressure on students. 

Adderall abuse on college campuses around the country is attributed to a culture that is prominent, normalized and detrimental. Students are often immediately rejected when they seek extensions on assignments due to mental health reasons or illness. They are taught that without an internship every summer, you won’t succeed in life. And let’s not forget, you must apply to those internships a year in advance. College is expensive, so many students must work to pay their rent and tuition. They are also told college is a time for fun, experimenting and finding yourself. 

Institutions must realize that this is a tall request. A tall request that students have no choice but to accept. 

The unfortunate truth is that the culture of Adderall abuse will remain strong unless there is a systematic change. Systematic changes take time, so in the meantime, I encourage students and universities to disseminate information about Adderall abuse, keep an eye on one another, stay safe and believe in their capabilities. We are not superhumans, and that’s okay. 

Sivan Ginor is a junior at UW Madison majoring in Journalism. Do you agree that Adderall use has become normalized on college campuses? Send all comments to

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