Finding Focus

   Senior Mark Johnson* never really got good grades.

   After being tested for A.D.D. in the seventh grade, Johnson was immediately prescribed to Adderall, a psycho stimulant medication that contains amphetamine.

   “I completely changed as a person,” Johnson said. “I went from being the class clown to just sitting there silently and trying to work. I’d even skip recess and go to the library to do homework.”

   Johnson no longer felt like himself on the medicine and almost never wanted to eat.

   “It made me really depressed,” Johnson said, “because I felt introverted and not myself.”

   Adderall has swept the country in waves in not only prescriptions, but also illegally. By helping people focus on the work they must do, the use and abuse of it has increased over the past years.

   Illegal Adderall use has even hit the halls of Seaholm.

    Senior Tom Anderson* buys Adderall during stressful times at school.

   “I get it from people at Seaholm,” Anderson said, “close friends.”

   Johnson admits to having played a part in giving Adderall to kids who are not prescribed.

   “In the past, it was just around finals,” Johnson said, “but they come back and want it again. I don’t even sell it I just give it to people. So many others have Adderall, so people can get it from all of them, it wasn’t just me.”

   Senior Elizabeth Hocking has been prescribed to Adderall since sixth grade in order to help treat her A.D.D. She has also been asked for Adderall by her fellow classmates.

   “A lot of people have asked me for Adderall,” Hocking said, “but I refuse to give it to anyone. I’ve heard about people giving it to their friends, especially around finals. Kids pay a ton of money for it around finals.”

   Although it may sound commonplace, not many people know this is going on.

   Counselor Toby Loukmas hasn’t heard about Adderall abuse at Seaholm.

   “If this is happening at Seaholm,” Loukmas said, “I do not know. Nothing has come to my attention.”

   The abuse of Adderall is occurring on a regular basis.

   Birmingham Licensed Professional Counselor Dennis Rozema said “Adderall abuse has increased a lot over the past four or five years.”

   Rozema works with patients who abuse Adderall, whether by prescription or illegally.

   “People using Adderall illegally end up relying on it too much,” Rozema said, “and they keep taking more and more after building a tolerance. It becomes this vicious cycle that they find they can’t get out of.”

   Today the Drug Enforcement Administration classifies Adderall as a Schedule II drug. Schedule II substances are defined as having a high potential for abuse and can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. Adderall is among other Schedule II drugs such as Cocaine or Methamphetamine.

   Adderall must be prescribed by a doctor because it can be dangerous if not taken in the right doses or times.

   “Any use of a prescription drug without a prescription is dangerous,” Rozema said, “because you don’t really know how your body’s going to react but a doctor can do blood work and prescribe a certain amount over a certain amount of time.”

   Hocking notes the negative influences of the drug.

   “I wasn’t bubbly anymore and never laughed,” Hocking said. “It completely takes away my appetite and affects my sleep.”

   Johnson agrees.

   “You’re not hungry while on it and you don’t want to drink,” Johnson said. “You get this pain in your stomach like hunger pains but the thought of food makes you want to vomit.”

   The fact is that Adderall is not a game to mess with. People using it for A.D.D. highlight the negative effects over the few good hours where it gives them motivation to do school work.

   “Adderall has three hours of its prime where you can do anything,” Johnson said. “Then you slowly start to come down on it. That’s when you get depressed and feel all the negative side effects.”

   Even with all these harmful facts of Adderall, it seems to continue thriving in society.

   New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Roger Cohen wrote in a March 4th, 2013 column, titled “The Competition Drug,” that the main problem in universities today is no longer alcohol, instead Adderall.

   “[Adderall is] freely available as the pill,” Cohen said, “to take whenever academic pressure requires pulling an all-nighter with zero procrastination to get a paper done.”

   Cohen parallels Adderall in schools as steroids in sports.

   However, Adderall has also surfaced into the world of sports.

   Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks cornerback, was suspended from the 2012 season for allegedly using Adderall.

   His ban was overturned on appeal.

   Following the overturn, The Vancouver Sun quoted Sherman saying “about half the league takes [Adderall].”

   Sherman later repealed his statement, according to an April 11th, 2013 article on ESPN, saying that some players were actually prescribed to the drug.

   Adderall is being used in several other places, but it’s taking its major toll on students.

   According to The National Survey on Drug Use and Health report in 2009, full-time college students aged 18 to 22 were twice as likely as not full-time college students to have used Adderall nonmedically in the past year.

   It was reported in 2011 that a 24 year old Richard Fee hung himself two weeks after having his Adderall prescription expire in a New York Times February 2nd, 2013 article written by Alan Schwarz.

   Fee’s doctors had continued to increase his dosage even after noticing his “psychiatric breakdown” and “growing addiction.”

   Rozema has dealt with several patients who have been either prescribed or illegal Adderall abusers.

   “One of the problems,” he said, “with taking more and more is your body adjusts to that, and that’s why you take more. If you just stop suddenly your body doesn’t adjust to that as well and it can cause medical problems and psychological problems can be very serious.”

   Cases such as suicide are rare, but not impossible.

   Cohen said Adderall is “an illicit performance enhancer for a fiercely competitive environment.”

   Loukmas agrees.

   “I think there’s a lot of pressure on students to do well academically,” Loukmas said, “especially in our community. It’s getting harder to get into college which everybody is frantic and really stressed out about.”

   With this pressure, students not prescribed to Adderall insist on using it for studies.

   “I use it on days that I’m behind,” Anderson said, “or when I might be feeling a little tired. It keeps me focused and makes homework less of a task.”

   According to Johnson, the negative effects of abusing Adderall are very clear.

   “I can see a difference in people,” Johnson said. “I have seen people grow addicted to it. I see them fiend and only see some friends when they’re in their time of need.”

   Johnson questions people who decide to take Adderall without a prescription.

   “Personally,” Johnson said, “I look at people who use Adderall for fun and I don’t understand the satisfaction of it.”

   Hocking agrees.

   “I don’t get how kids could ever take it for recreational purposes,” she said, “it’s the last thing I would want to do”

   According to Loukmas, although academics may be stressful, Adderall will do more harm than good.

   “If it helps you on a test,” she said, “that’s not real life and you aren’t learning to cope with things that happen in life. It’s just a temporary fix for something, but in the long term it’s going to hurt a person because it’s not reality.”

   Mentally, physically, and emotionally, Adderall is a dangerous drug.

   “If you’re abusing it,” Rozema said, “you don’t know what you’re doing and could get in serious health troubles.”

PHOTO / CAROLINE SQUATRITO
PHOTO / CAROLINE SQUATRITO

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