ADHD drug abuse rises on college campuses

ADHD drug abuse rises on college campuses

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by Erica Heartquist, KGW Staff

kgw.com

Posted on November 4, 2013 at 8:03 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 5 at 6:14 AM

PORTLAND -- College students are taking ADHD drugs that aren't theirs just to help them stay up and study. They called it a "shortcut to success." 

But some doctors said there are serious consequences and colleges are having to crack down.

Unit 8 discovered how Oregon universities are taking action.

College students said buying the prescription Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder drugs is about as easy as buying books in the bookstore.

Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse are all drugs that help with  ADHD, but doctors KGW talked to said students who take them without a prescription don't seem to realize the risk they're taking.

Do you want to know how common the abuse of ADHD drugs are on college campuses?

Ask a student. Any student.

"Definitely. It's all over. Everyone takes it especially during midterms and finals week. It's all over campus," said Oregon State University junior Anna Singer.

"You just hear about a lot of people who've done it or have friends who've done it," said OSU freshman Mallori Powell.

"In our dorm room, we hear people on different floors like, 'Oh, my friend has ADHD, my roommate does, so we can just use some of their pills,' " said Kaitlyn Danna, an OSU freshman.

"One of my really good friends has done it," added Powell.

"People just don't think about consequences. They're at the age where nothing can hurt them," said OSU sophomore Dakota Cloud. "So [they say], 'Why not try it?'"

Colleges and universities across the country have been seeing an increase in abuse over the past ten years.

"I've been here for thirty years and in the first ten to fifteen years this really wasn't a common thing we would deal with. Since then, there's been a lot of publicity and it's become a more common diagnosis," said Dr. Jeffrey Mull, M.D. with Student Health Services at Oregon State University.

Students said they take the drugs to focus on school work, especially during test time. Some called it "college crack" and the "study drug."

North Carolina State, Penn State and Georgia Tech said they could no longer handle the volume of requests for the drugs. Some schools have even started forbidding their clinics to prescribe them.

Other universities, including Oregon State, require students to sign contracts promising not to misuse pills or share them.

The OSU waiver talks about the risks, dangers of sharing the drugs and that it's a felony.

Doctor Mull said the school doesn't allow early refills to replace lost or stolen medication.

"We often use the analogy that when you get your prescription, it's like cash and if you lose the prescription or you lose the bottle of medication or someone steals it, then you don't get more until your next prescription would be due," he said.

Doctor Mull said there is an education coalition to talk about the issues of drug abuse and the school has started looking at outside testing for diagnosis.

But he admitted they can only crack down so much.

"The abuse is really high and again it can be abuse of sharing it with your friends. Some people will use alternative ways of delivering the medicine. They'll crush it up and they'll snort it which gives you a quicker high," he said.

Students who don't actually need stimulants like Adderall become accustomed to it, which can be medically dangerous, he said. There's a risk of heart and blood pressure problems, stroke and even death.

KGW also checked with the University of Oregon and Portland State University.

Doctors at their student health centers said they're doing a lot more outreach about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs in general.

A spokeswoman for PSU said the school considers it a conduct violation.

The University of Oregon has an agreement for students to sign, similar to Oregon State's waiver talking about dangers of abusing medications.

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