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Illegal Adderall use rises among students

By Rebecca Peets
On April 16, 2013

Procrastination, cramming and difficulty focusing are all common problems for students around finals. As a result, the abuse of prescription stimulants also becomes more prevalent, according to Dr. Josh Hersh, board certified psychiatrist at Miami University's Student Counseling Center.

Common prescription stimulants include Adderall, Adderall XR, Amphetamine Mix Salts, Ritalin and Vyvanse as well as others, according to Hersh.

A growing trend on college campuses is the misuse and abuse of prescription stimulants, according to Hersh.

According to a student who uses these stimulants without a prescription and asked to remain anonymous, this trend may be due to the increasing ease at which the drugs are accessed.

"If they're getting it it's not coming from here," Hersh said, referencing Miami's counseling center.

The process for being screened for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD) or continuing use of medication through Miami Health Services is lengthy, about six to eight weeks, according to Hersh. This includes a drug screen and full medical evaluation before a trial run of stimulants are prescribed.

"We believe in a combined approach to ADHD," Hersh said. "We perform screening, evaluations, counseling treatment in conjunction with behavioral treatments."

These behavioral treatments are to help students learn how to focus and use time management and concentration, in an attempt to help students deal with their problems instead of medicate them, according to Hersh.

Hersh said he does not believe it is easy to get a prescription at Miami by faking a diagnosis.

"I don't think we see too many people faking to sell the drugs," Hersh said. "The people we see are very motivated to get help."

According to one anonymous student who uses prescribed Adderall, there are several reasons why they seek stimulants, especially around finals time.

"I use it to get work done, to study for exams and pull all-nighters," the student said. "It helps you stay focused and do homework. When you are focused you can do work for long periods of time."

If students are not getting stimulants from Miami, the question becomes: where are they getting them?

"Most people are getting medication at home," Hersh said. "Many doctors prescribe when they shouldn't and it is making it too easy to get a hold of."

One anonymous user of focalin XR, a stimulant similar to Adderall, is an example of this.

"I have a prescription which was easy to get but I've never sold it, always just given them away if someone I know asked for one or needed one," the anonymous source said.

Other sources of the medications are dealers of prescription stimulants, friends and even parents, according to anonymous sources.

"I buy it from a friend," another anonymous source said.

The usage of prescription drugs for abuse on The Ohio State's campus is 4.4 percent at least once per year, according to Hersh, which he said he believes is similar to Miami.

"I think some of them [abusers of stimulants] do have undiagnosed ADHD but I think a lot of them are using them for all sorts of reasons, like mixing it with alcohol to get excited for a party or to lose weight or reduce inhibitions," Hersh said.

Other uses are to perform better in athletics, help wake up in the morning, reduce anxiety or to deal with depression, although overuse can lead to depression, according to Hersh.

"Like any drug once you get to the point of addiction it can contribute to depressive symptoms," Hersh said.

One anonymous student said they experienced that reaction to the use of prescribed stimulants.

"Depression is a side effect when you use it too much," Hersh said. "There's another drug you take although that does the same thing as Adderall, but doesn't have the depression factor."

Hersh said students do see some of the risks, but not all.

"I see repercussions such as becoming dependent on it, but once off it for a while, such as over the summer, it's easier to function without it," an anonymous user said.

But, according to Hersh, stimulants are controlled substances by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because they have a high potential for abuse that may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. Other negative effects may include developing a tolerance, which will cause them to escalate the dose and have withdrawal symptoms.

"We see four to five people each year who have abused stimulants and have consequences from that," Hersh said.

Some of these consequences include panic attacks, psychosis and development of an addiction. Hersh also said snorting is much more dangerous than taking the pill form.

"Snorting avoids the liver, making it more potent and it has the potential for a lot more toxins to enter the body," he said. "An addiction usually starts with swallowing but with gained tolerance turns to snorting and injection."

Intranasal use (snorting) can lead to loss of sense of smell, congestion, nosebleeds, hoarseness and problems with swallowing, according to Hersh.

Other possible consequences of abuse include an inability to function at work or school, relationship problems, financial problems and illegal behavior.

Polysubstance abuse is also common in prescription abusers, according to Hersh. This is using more than one substance together, such as a stimulant and alcohol or multiple drugs at the same time.

Hersh said students who use prescription stimulants non-medically are more likely to abuse other substances such as alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine.

"They are usually using it with other stimulants such as caffeine and other drugs," Hersh said.

He said he has also found evidence to suggest that the highest rates of non-medical use of prescription stimulants are on college campuses with highly competitive admissions criteria.

"I think there's more pressure to do well," Hersh said. "It's not the kids with the top grades or the A's that you would think, it's the kids with the B's and C's, the kids who are struggling with grades."

person," Rosenthal said. "Frankly, we've had some success in causing companies to go back the other way."

Rosenthal said the point of a résumé is to secure the kind of one-on-one interactions with employers that happen at the career fairs.

"The purpose of a résumé is one thing and one thing only and that is to get you personally face to face with someone with whom you can interview, so the whole purpose of the résumé is to open the door for the prospective candidate to meet and have the opportunity to sell himself," Rosenthal said. "If you have a paper résumé and you are just sending it out cold with a cover letter, then there really isn't much difference between doing it with paper or doing it electronically."

According to Rosenthal, the vast majority of students who obtain an internship or a full-time position do so through networking with parents, family members, friends, previous employers and others.

"The vast majority, probably 80 to 90 percent, of internships and full-time employment opportunities come through personal contact," Rosenthal said.

Junior Taylor Darkoch said she has had better luck in her internship process using hard copies of résumés and networking.

"A lot of the places I applied to online I would [submit a résumé online] because you have to, but I would try to find a creative way to reach out because I don't think you can really trust the online submission because there's so many analytical tools employers use to find key words," Darkoch said.

Senior Matt Arhar also said he had more success using hard copies of résumés.

"I've had more success with paper [résumés] because you can show some personality through the way you organize it," Arhar said. "When you submit an online résumé...everything is standardized and you can't use a specific font or structure it in any way. You're more of a number."

Junior Jon Leist said every company he interviewed with for a summer internship required an online submission of a résumé.

"When I came into my interview, I would have my résumé printed out on résumé paper," Leist said. "I'd give them the cleaner-looking, more crisp copy."

Leist said the benefit of handing a potential employer a paper résumé is the hard copy is the updated version of your résumé and it looks more professional.

According to Leist, formatting is one of the most important things for a strong résumé.

"If your résumé is too spaced out or not visually appealing, they'll immediately toss it and move to the next one," Leist said. "The next point is, have all your accomplishments data-driven, not subjective. If it's more quantified, it gives them a better idea of what you accomplished."


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