Exploring the real issue behind increasing Adderall abuse

By Minju Park, Columnist

parkminjuMore high school students are applying to college than ever before. College students are also acquiring more student debt than in the past in order to prepare themselves for a future where jobs are more competitive than ever to find.

It’s no surprise that with all these factors, and plenty of other factors such as friends, family relations, extracurriculars and part-time jobs, students feel an enormous weight on their shoulders to succeed in all aspects of their lives.

According to a study done at the University of Michigan entitled “Monitoring the Future,” the use of Adderall without a prescription among 12th graders was at 7.4 percent in 2013, a significant increase from 2009, in which 5.4 percent reported using the drug.

Adderall is an amphetamine commonly prescribed to those diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that releases chemicals that impact impulse control or hyperactivity.

It is a vital medication for those struggling with ADHD, but it is often misused by college students without a prescription who are struggling to stay awake or focus in order to study for exams or to finish up assignments.

Many have pointed fingers blaming “privileged students” for taking extreme measures, and have said that they should have known better to manage their time or develop better study habits.

But many don’t realize that this isn’t exactly the case. It has little to do with an inability to be “smart enough” to study well. Many of the students who abuse Adderall are college students admitted into Ivy League schools. They’ve endured the tests and have proven themselves intelligent enough to become accepted to a prestigious institution.

Rather, the increasing abuse of Adderall has more to do with the misfortunes of society — the overwhelming amount of pressure put on students due to the standards that are rising for them every year.

According to a 2015 study by the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate for young college graduates is 7.2 percent, compared to 5.5 percent in 2007. This increase in unemployment is representative of the increasing competition that college students face. In order to even partake in this competition, students must maintain stellar grades and build up extracurricular experience through a plethora of internships or research work.

It’s obvious that a continual buildup and increase of academic pressure would lead to negative consequences, which is represented by the Adderall usage phenomenon.

This is a serious issue that must be dealt with head-on. Abuse of pharmaceuticals such as Adderall is only one of many consequences that may result from an excessive amount of pressure on students.

This relates to the circumstances in several East Asian countries that tend to have constricting academic systems — long school days, after-school tutoring classes until past midnight, a sense of extreme competition among peers and standardized testing to determine comprehension.

This system has been largely criticized in that it results in an unhealthy amount of pressure that is forced upon young students. The results of this chronic phenomenon range from high suicide rates to an overall sense of unhappiness.

Acknowledging the issues that are developing in our society is the first step to formulating a solution to combat issues that are the root of Adderall abuse.

From there, schools and universities can increase awareness about the long term effects of Adderall addiction, offer psychological therapy when identifying the warning signs of extreme stress or begin the process of reforming our education curriculums.

While Adderall abuse is a serious problem in our society, it’s important to combat the deeper causal issues behind the situation instead of criticizing Millennial students for taking the easy way out.

Minju is a sophomore in Media.

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