{{show_title_date || "More people using Adderall to get an edge, 4/4/13, 3:37 PM ET"}}

In search of a ‘wonder drug’? Why students are misusing Adderall and other stimulants


On American college campuses, students use a stimulant such as Adderall, a prescription drug intended to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, to boost academic performance. The DEA classifies Adderall as a controlled substance.

“Adderall is not as dangerous as methamphetamine or cocaine. although it is classified along with those by the DEA as a schedule 2 drug,” Slate writer Will Oremus, who has been diagnosed with ADHD and takes Adderall legally, said on Thursday’s show. “It’s not the demon drug that you sometimes hear it portrayed as.”

The drug is composed of amphetamine salts that are designed to stimulate the central nervous system, and medical experts and the Federal Drug Administration warn that improper use of Adderall can lead to abuse and dependence. When used properly, Adderall helps people with ADHD focus better. Oremus explains how once he takes the Adderall in the morning, it helps him feel more focused throughout the day and allows him to accomplish the tasks at hand. “When people are taking it in small doses it probably is not the same as people taking methamphetamine to get all strung out.”

Students who haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD are taking Adderall and other stimulants in ways that may be dangerous. In competitive academic environments, students use the drug to increase attention and decrease the need for sleep, hoping to improve their grades. But stimulants “are not wonder drugs, they are not going to make you 20 IQ points smarter,” said Oremus. “They allow you to stay up and keep working on something when you otherwise might give up or get distracted or go to sleep.”