Wildcat Wellness: Adderall & the ACT

Kyra Fleischman '17, Writer

As ACT season nears for Juniors, I thought it would be an appropriate time to bring up Adderall abuse. You may know a variety of students who take unprescribed Adderall, or another “focus drug,” to study, take a test, or even just to feel high. They buy Adderall from friends with ADHD and take it “so they can focus on studying” and “not get distracted.” Even people who are prescribed Adderall sometimes abuse it by taking a large dose or snorting it. Neuroscientist Kevin Heart says that Adderall is prescribed too quickly, leading to its availability in society. Although it may not seem like a big deal, abusing this prescription drug can have scary consequences.

Adderall is an amphetamine. It is a stimulant, meaning it increases dopamine levels, making you happy and alert. So what’s the problem? Adderall is highly addictive. It has similar effects to cocaine and meth. It causes loss of appetite, sleeplessness, increased heart rate, anxiety, fever, chest pain, and even seizures. Adderall abuse can also increase tolerance, making it so people have to take more and more to get the desired effect. This makes it easier to overdose and can cause dependency and addiction. People then start using Adderall in everyday life, not just for tests. They feel like they cannot function well without it. They may decrease their eating and sleeping, which can lead to muscle atrophy, fainting, dizziness, and moodiness. As Adderall loses its effectiveness with use, it can push people to search for the same high amongst other drugs. This leads to severe addictions.

So, what do we do? If everyone else is using it, doesn’t it give them an unfair advantage? Though it may seem like “everyone” is using it, studies have found that less than 10% of students actually are. Additionally, there is no clear link showing that the drug actually improves test scores. In a Quebec study, Ritalin (a very similar drug to Adderall) did not prove to cause an increase in grades in students with ADHD. This study shows that focus drugs, while they do increase focus, don’t necessarily increase focus on schoolwork. People become fascinated with whatever they are doing, not what they are supposed to be doing. Therefore, it would likely be the same for people without ADHD.

Ultimately, you do not need Adderall to get the best ACT score. Whether or not you take it will likely have no bearing on the numbers, just your health.