JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - It's finals week at Arkansas State University, which means most students are busy studying for those last few tests before summer break starts, but when those late nights become too much, some turn to a prescription drug to help them out.
The pill, Adderall, is life changing for those who need it. It helps people with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) focus on the task at hand.
Others who aren't prescribed the drug have found they benefit from it too, especially this time of year. However, the doctor and student we spoke with have two very different outlooks on the prescription pill when taken illegally.
"I don't flaunt it, I don't do anything dumb with it," Brian, a student at Arkansas State told Region 8 News. "I'm pretty smart when it comes to taking Adderall."
Doctor Shane Speights isn't convinced.
"A smart Adderall user is like a smart cocaine user."
Nevertheless, Brian, who requested to have his identity hidden said, "If you take it right and do it right, I know it's 100% safe."
Dr. Speights countered that argument by saying, "just because it's a prescription medication, doesn't mean it's safe for you."
The pill is more effective than caffeine, and falls in the same family as cocaine. For some, Adderall is a godsend.
"I have nothing negative to say about Adderall," Brian told us.
Others, like Dr. Speights feel very differently on the matter.
"Illegal, immoral, unhealthy. It's just a bad idea."
Brian told Region 8 News that he took his first Adderall during his freshman year of college. A friend who told him the prescription medication was safe and helpful turned him on to the drug.
"I had an all nighter to get ready for," he said. "So I took it and from then on I fell in love with it."
Since he isn't prescribed Adderall, he had to get the drug illegally from a friend. Regardless, Brian said he takes the pill often to help with his heavy class load.
"It just makes things look easier...feel easier"
He said that being able to focus on multiple things for hours at a time make slight side effects nothing to worry about. Side effects listed on adderall-abuse.com vary in severity. They include anything from dry mouth to an elevated heart rate.
"It's nothing that's serious, nothing that's going to make you freak out," Brian said.
Dr. Speights said that thinking can be deadly.
"How do you know a little bit of heart rhythm or palpitations or fluttering is normal, that goes away on its own, versus lethal arrhythmia or rhythm that may be just skirting you with death and you just don't know it," Speights said.
He told us that not everyone is placed on Adderall because it's not meant for everyone.
"Any medication, this medication included, taken by a person it's not prescribed for, you're just looking for a bad outcome."
Before prescribing the drug, Dr. Speights said patients must undergo a series of tests on their heart. Doctors must also look at a person's family history and more to make sure they are healthy enough to take the drug in the first place. People who have heart problems or who take certain medications like MAOI's are often not prescribed the drug.
Dr. Speights said not only can it be deadly for those it's not intended for, but "if you don't have a prescription for it and you get caught by police with it in your possession, it is a felony."
The drug can also be addicting.
"They're addicting actually, chemically, in the same manner that cocaine is."
However, when we asked Brian if he was addicted to Adderall, he said no.
"I've never woken up and craved Adderall," Brian said.
Though they disagreed a lot, the agreed completely on one thing. The stigma that comes along with college students and rampant Adderall abuse is false.
"Oh, everybody does it, everybody does it," Dr. Speights said, "No, that's not true."
"Everybody in college is doing it," Brian told us, "It's not like that."
Speights said the percentage of college students who actually abuse the drug is small. Brian wanted to dispel the idea that the drug is even easy to get in the first place.
"You can't just walk into the library, raise your hand and get an Adderall, it's not that easy. Not that easy at all."
According to a study done by the National Institute for Drug Abuse, about 25% of college students said they have abused Adderall at some point in their life. However, Brian told us though he takes the drug now; it won't be a part of his life after college.
As always, consult a doctor before taking any prescription medications.
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