ADHD medication used as study aid


COLLEGE: Prescription speed gives students a mental edge.

She gets up from her seat, excuses herself from class and heads to the water fountain. Making sure no one is watching, she removes a 30-milligram capsule from her purse and swallows it.

Thirty minutes later, the buzz begins: laser focus, instant recall and the fortitude to crush any exam in her path.

“It wasn’t that hard of a decision. Do I want to wake up after getting only four hours of sleep and be a mess, underperform on the test and on the soccer field? Or get good grades, get into a good college and make my parents, teachers and coaches happy,” explains Jenny, a current Santa Ana College student who has just been accepted to UC Berkeley.

Pressure for high grades and competition to transfer into universities are pushing students to abuse prescription stimulants, according to interviews with SAC students.

Stimulant amphetamines like Adderall increase performance in those who have and have not been diagnosed with ADHD.

While these medicines tend to calm people with ADHD, those without the disorder find that just one pill can jolt them with the energy and focus to push through all-night study binges.

The effect can last up to several hours, but varies from person to person.

According to an informal el Don poll, out of 200 students 1 in 5 people not diagnosed with ADHD admit to using Adderall.

Adderall prices vary from $2 for a single pill to $90 for a refill on a prescription.

The prospect of a better GPA with less effort is enough for some college students to obtain Adderall by any means necessary.

Students admit to seeing doctors and purposefully exaggerating symptoms of ADHD to acquire medication.

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“You find out what to say from someone who already has a prescription,” one student said. Others pop a generously donated pill from their pals, though some are wary of the effects.

“Once you break the seal, it’s not scary anymore — especially when you’re getting A’s,” said one student who began snorting Adderall this year.

“I think it’s really sad that students feel so pressured by their parents and educators that they take speed,” said Amilcar Archilla, a philosophy major who has been offered pills from his friends more than once.

People who took it when they were younger often have harsh opinions about it.

“I took it when I was a kid. I know students abuse it to study. I take it because without it, my brain would be all over the place,” said Robert Fuller, a third year nursing major.

Although he understands the pressure students feel to get good grades, he doesn’t think it’s fair for students without ADHD to take Adderall. “It makes me normal, and makes people without ADHD superhuman,” Fuller said

And some don’t see it as a problem at all.

“I don’t think it’s unfair,” said Jade Martin, a senior with a work-smarter-not-harder mentality. “You still have to do the work and retain all the info. It helps you work more efficiently.”


  • 30 Minutes on average for a 30-milligram capsule to kick in.
  • $2 Average cost per pill, or about $90 to refill a prescription.
  • 20 Out of 200 students without ADHD polled at Santa Ana College admitted to using Adderall at least once.

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