Why Is Adderall Use Common in College Students?

in Addiction
Published Mar 3, 2021

Adderall use among young adults has been rapidly increasing across college campuses. It is estimated that more than one million Americans misused stimulants in 2017, with 14.4% being young adults 18 to 25. It is typically prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) but has become popular for nonmedical use. Although the medication has medical purposes, it’s addictive and can cause severe side-effects.

What Is Adderall?

Adderall contains a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Both ingredients are central nervous system stimulants that affect chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control. It is most commonly used to treat ADHD but also increases daytime wakefulness for those with narcolepsy. It comes in two forms: Adderall oral tablet and Adderall XR.

Popularity on College Campuses

At correctly prescribed doses, Adderall improves focus, sharpens mental acuity, and provides a small energy boost for those who suffer from ADHD. However, anyone who takes a stimulant can experience these same effects. It also increases the natural levels of the brain chemical dopamine, which enhances feelings of well-being, confidence, and reward.

Students most often use it for studying. It can make it easier to focus and function without sleep, allowing students to complete assignments. Many people also believe that it makes them “smarter.” However, while Adderall may help focus it does not enhance complex learning.

College students may also use it for recreational use. It enhances the side effects of other drugs, especially alcohol, which many young adults may find appealing. Adderall is also cheaper than cocaine and provides many similar effects.

Most distribution of it comes from students who are prescribed the medication. Many may think that distributing their Adderall is an easy way to make money. Students may obtain Adderall from friends, family, or roommates. There is no definitive test for ADHD and doctors base diagnoses largely on symptoms and the observations of parents and teachers, making faking symptoms to obtain a prescription easy and common.

Side Effects

Adderall is a strong stimulant that can lead to serious side effects. Side effects of it use may include:

  • Convulsions
  • Paranoia
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures


Overdose is the most significant risk of taking it. Taking Adderall with other drugs that heighten each other’s effects increases this risk. Overdose can lead to heart attack, stroke, liver failure, and death.

Stimulants can also make your blood vessels constrict, raise your blood pressure, and make your heart beat faster. Adderall may also cause further interference with blood circulation that causes the toes and fingers to go numb and turn blue or red.

It can also cause changes in the brain that lead to altered behaviors and the development of mental health disorders. Individuals who use Adderall may also become suicidal after taking the drug for a prolonged period.

Recognizing an Adderall Addiction

It may be difficult for some to realize that Adderall use is a problem because it is a prescribed medication. Many people believe that medications that come as prescriptions are safe for use and non-addictive. Regular Adderall use may lead to the development of tolerance, needing more or a higher dose of the drug to achieve the desired effects. When tolerance develops, so does physical dependence. Both of these characteristics are criteria for substance use disorder (SUD). SUD may lead to withdrawal symptoms when use of the drug is stopped, such as:

  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Oversleeping
  • Insomnia
  • Increased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts


The key to recognizing an Adderall addiction is to spot specific behaviors. Some of the most common signs of addiction include:

  • Trouble working or studying without Adderall
  • Overspending
  • Needing the drug to stay awake
  • Prioritizing using and obtaining the drug before all else


In college students, addiction can affect studies and force an individual to drop out. Even if it is only taken once or twice per week, it is still possible to develop tolerance to the drug. Developing tolerance and taking more of the medication may lead to overdose.

Repercussions of Adderall Use

Aside from the physical and psychological risks of taking it, there are other factors for college students to consider. If it is found on campus, it can lead to expulsion or the need for law enforcement to get involved. Along with this, if a student is receiving financial aid they may lose that money helping them pay for school. Selling it is also considered a felony, which may result in prison time.

Adderall use is rapidly rising on college campuses. It is known as a “study drug” because students use it to help them stay awake and focus on assignments or studying. However, Adderall has many adverse side effects for those who are not prescribed the medication, many of which are severe. Regular Adderall use may also lead to physical dependence or substance use disorder (SUD), causing withdrawal symptoms. Along with physical and psychological effects, Adderall use may lead to expulsion from school or legal repercussions. Detoxing from Adderall may be uncomfortable, frightening, and even life-threatening. At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we use proprietary, evidence-based medical protocols that prioritize our patients’ comfort and safety to guide them through the detox process. Our personalized treatment is delivered in a safe and peaceful environment. If you or a loved one struggles with physical dependence or SUD related to Adderall, call Gallus Medical Detox Centers at (866) 296-5242.