The abuse of medication prescribed for ADHD is a problem that is affecting University students around the world. The most commonly known medications that are being abused by college students are Adderall, Vyvanse, Ritalin, and Concerta however, I will generally use Adderall as my terminology when referring to all medications for simplicity. Through my 4 years at Rutgers I have witnessed a lot of students abuse Adderall for studying and recreational purposes with only few actually being prescribed the drug. There are a multitude of issues that come along with the abuse of Adderall but I will mainly address the problems of academic fairness and health risks associated with the drug.
Andrew Jacobs says that, “As many as 20 percent of college students have used Ritalin or Adderall to study, write papers and take exams, according to recent surveys focused on individual campuses (Jacobs 1). University doctors such as Dr. Robert A. Winfield, Director of University Health Service at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, have seen an increase in the number of students who claim to have A.
D.H.D. in order to gain a prescription for the drug (Jacobs 1). In fact, from the year 2002 to 2010 the number of Adderall prescriptions given out in the United States had doubled from four million to 8 million, potentially showcasing just how easy it is to gain a prescription for the drug (Fenton & Wunderlich 2). Through an increase in University students gaining Adderall prescriptions it is only inevitable that there will also be an increase in students who are not prescribed Adderall taking the drug as well.
Adderall use has become a common way for university students to cope with the rigorous amounts of schoolwork and studying that they face, with many students also seeing it as a way to gain an advantage on the rest of students in their highly competitive majors. I believe that the perceived ‘productivity’ associated with Adderall use makes the drug especially dangerous for students since they think of it as a ‘miracle drug’ that produces positive results. Other prescription drugs such as painkillers don’t create any form of productivity for students, and that can shy many people away from using. In a Desantis et al. study, many of the University students that were surveyed about their Adderall use came up with arguments such as, “i’m doing it for the right reasons”, “it comes from the medical establishment”, and “it has no internal/physical side-effects” (Desantis). These perceptions are greatly factoring into the culture of Adderall acceptance in Universities across the country, and are perceptions that I aim to change within my target population. It has been found that the non-medical use of any stimulant drug can lead to heart and blood vessel problems as well as drug abuse and dependence (Vimont). This dependence on the drug for academic purposes can also create bad habits for students as they enter the workforce in their near futures. Students who relied so heavily on the drug throughout their four years at school may see themselves starting to take it to maximize their work outputs. Going forward, I will talk about a specific population that is affected by Adderall abuse and in need of more preventive measures against the growing epidemic.
The Population that I will be focusing on is Rutgers University New Brunswick campus students. I chose Rutgers because the University is ranked the number one public University in New Jersey, top 25 public University in the nation, and a top 100 world University by the U.S. News and World Report of America’s best colleges, and its the University that I currently attend. These rankings show Rutgers academic prowess, reputation, and competitiveness, which are all reasons for Rutgers students to abuse Adderall to compensate for the difficulty in their academics. New Jersey is no different than other state in that Adderall can be prescribed by a medical professional to those that are diagnosed with A.D.H.D. after an examination. The distribution of the drug by those who are prescribed is illegal and faces ramifications of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $50,000. These charges alone wouldn’t be enough to prevent Rutgers students or any University student that is prescribed the drug to stop distributing it to others because they are given such finite amounts of the drug that it would be very difficult for a student to be caught selling it to others. A study conducted at Rutgers University asked 122 Rutgers students if they had ever used Adderall, and found that 11.9 percent of the students have used it as a study aid and that 75.4 percent of the students surveyed find the use of Adderall to be socially acceptable (Sikorski). Lisa Laitman, a former director of the Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program for Students at Rutgers says that, “most non-prescribed students who take Adderall are unaware of the risks of taking a stimulant and they may not know that they have a heart condition until they try Adderall” (Sikorski). This study along with the potential health risks of taking an A.D.H.D. prescribed medication should be enough reason for Rutgers University to start creating more awareness for students about the dangers of taking Adderall in order to prevent the increased use of the drug as well as changing students’ perceptions about the drug as being ‘productive’ and socially acceptable.
To prevent the issue of Adderall abuse at Rutgers University, the school should implement programs and policies that make for more precise diagnoses of A.D.H.D. for students seeking to obtain a prescription for Adderall through the school clinicians. I believe that creating more barriers and precise measures for students seeking to obtain a prescription for Adderall through the school will help with the issue of students faking A.D.H.D. diagnoses.
A successful model of a University fighting against the abuse of Adderall can be seen at Miami University of Ohio, where students seeking an A.D.H.D. diagnosis are required to participate in time management workshops, and a session about taking medications safely through the University’s counseling service before being prescribed any medication (Vimont). The workshops are once a week for several weeks aim to teach students at Miami University about how to properly manage their time, sleep, eat, study, etc. (Vimont). I will be implementing these exact kinds of meetings into my plan for Rutgers to fight their Adderall abuse problem. I am proposing that Rutgers implement similar required workshops that will be ran by a Rutgers CAPS psychiatrist in order to help combat the amount of students falsely seeking an A.D.H.D. prescription. These workshops are effective because they can help students who legitimately think they have A.D.H.D. learn alternative ways to succeed academically and prevent students seeking to abuse Adderall by creating more barriers for them. At Miami University, students who completed the time management workshops along with students who are already prescribed the drug must attend a meeting about keeping your prescription medication safe in a college setting (Vimont). I plan to also implement a similar meeting into my plan because it will be vital in helping to prevent the distribution of Adderall from the students who were prescribed through the school. If students learn about the repercussions and dangers of selling their prescription medication to other students it can help with the issue of students giving their Adderall away. Miami Universities staff psychiatrist says about the workshops, “We slow down the process to screen out the people who just want a quick fix” (Vimont). Elongating the process is exactly the solution that Rutgers would see if my plan were to be implemented, and in the end it would show fewer students successfully gaining Adderall prescriptions through the school. If Rutgers University were to adopt a similar prevention program with workshops for students who believe they have A.D.H.D. and other psychiatric disorders they can more effectively reduce campus prescription drug use.
Fresno State University is another great model of a college that actively has preventative measures in place to combat Adderall abuse among their students. The school wanted to prevent the abuse of the drug once they noticed a surge of students trying to get diagnosed with A.D.H.D. through the school’s psychiatrists (Schwarz). Because of this the school implemented a new policy geared towards reducing A.D.H.D. medication abuse among its students. Fresno State no longer has their own psychiatrists make diagnoses for prescription drugs and requires that students provide documentation of a thorough mental evaluation by a qualified doctor in order to get their prescription filled through the schools health center (Schwarz). In my plan, Rutgers CAPS psychiatrists will still be able to prescribe students Adderall, however, I will use Fresno State’s policy of requiring students who seek to fill their existing prescription show documentation of a thorough diagnoses from a doctor. I believe this will be an important aspect of my plan because it is another barrier for students who weren’t extensively evaluated before getting their Adderall prescription. In addition, another key policy from this model that I plan to replicate is that “Fresno State does not allow early refills to replace lost or stolen medication” (Schwarz). This is another preventative measure that Rutgers can use to ensure that students are not abusing their A.D.H.D. medication. I believe that these methods of reducing Adderall abuse would prove effective for Rutgers because it ensures a more accurate diagnosis for students seeking to gain or refill an Adderall prescription through the school.
Making Rutgers New Brunswick campus students aware of the issue of the dangers of abusing A.D.H.D. medications and the health risks associated with it.
Spread of posters across campus: (3 days – a week to make posters, get copies printed, and post them around campus) These will be informational posters about the health risks associated with A.D.H.D. medication abuse. The aim of these posters is to educate students who may not know of the dangers of taking stimulants for studying. I plan to get permission from restaurants and businesses along Easton avenue to post flyers outside/inside of their establishments along with getting permission from the school to post flyers in and outside of university buildings.
The poster will have statistics from the American Addiction Centers showing the negative health effects of prescription stimulants.
The poster will also have tabs that students can rip off containing a link to a survey about their experiences with Adderall usage. This survey can help give us more information about the percentages of students who are taking Adderall, for what reason they take it, if it helped their academic performance, etc.
Post an Ad in the Daily Targum (school newspaper): (2 weeks – 1 month to create the ad, sent it to the Daily Targum, get it approved, and get it published) This ad will talk about some of the long term risks of taking Adderall such as psychiatric problems, seizures, irregular heartbeat, etc.
This ad will use the “shock advertising” strategy, which is intended to strike fear into a viewer of the advertisement. I want students to become aware of some of the risks they take if they abuse the drug.
My campaign will actively try to persuade the school to implement new policies to help prevent prescription drug abuse among students.
Request that the school add amphetamine abuse to the “Not Anymore for Alcohol & Other Drugs” learning module. This learning module is required to be taken by all freshman at Rutgers University and I believe adding the dangers associated with abusing amphetamines such as Adderall to it would give incoming freshman some knowledge on why it can be bad for you.
Have Rutgers change its policy for filling A.D.H.D. prescriptions so that a student can only refill their existing prescription through the school if they provide documentation from their diagnoses and a CAPS psychiatrist sees it as legitimate. Also disallow early refills of A.D.H.D. medication.
The prevention strategies that I would suggest would be similar to those used in my model from Miami University of Ohio.
Have the university implement weekly 90 minute workshops for students inquiring about an A.D.H.D. diagnosis. These workshops will teach students about how to properly time manage, sleep, eat, study, etc. These workshops should go on for about 6-8 weeks and will help show which students may actually have A.D.H.D. These workshops will also create more barriers for the students looking for a false diagnosis. The workshops will be held with Counseling Adap & Psychiatric Services (CAPS) psychiatrists and only upon completion can a student then be eligible for an A.D.H.D. screening.
I will be asking Melodee Lasky, MD, the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Health and Wellness to fund my initiative. I think she would be the best fit since she is in charge of health and wellness at Rutgers and I believe my initiative is important in increasing mental health for students on campus by decreasing the abuse of the prescription drug Adderall.
Posters 100 Posters = $1,499
University Psychiatrist for workshop meetings $103.89 per hour X 3 workshops per week X 40 weeks = $12,466.8
Total Cost $13,965.8