Lacey McClain says Adderall makes her feel like a zombie, a robot, an anti-human.
She has been taking the drug since she was 9, and now, as a senior at UNC-Wilmington, she gets calls at least once a week — especially around finals time — from friends asking for a share in her supply, she said.
“I have a lot of friends that abuse it really bad,” she said.
McClain, who has ADHD, said she doesn’t use Adderall unless she feels like she has to. She said she uses it only to stay up all night, “like most college students use it.”
The presence of Adderall on college campuses has led some administrators to call into question the ethics behind the unauthorized use of the drug.
Duke University announced this semester that it updated the Duke Community Standard to include the unauthorized use of prescription medication, including Adderall, in its definition of cheating.
Pete Schork, Duke’s student body president, said the policy change was not motivated by rampant medication abuse.
He said the use of unauthorized use of Adderall happens due to the school’s competitive environment.
But he said the policy change is largely symbolic because the school’s actual ability to enforce the policy is limited.
Administrators have acknowledged these limitations, he said.
Larry Moneta, vice president of student affairs at Duke, wrote in an email that the policy is too new to have had any impact besides acting as a deterrent.
“And, of course, we’d have no way to measure that,” he said.
At UNC-CH, the unauthorized use of Adderall is not officially classified as cheating in the University’s honor code.
But students can be charged with illegal possession of a drug under North Carolina general statute if they do not have a prescription.
“There’s no separate charge or repercussion for using Adderall as an enhancement for the reason of academic performance,” said Jon McCay, student attorney general of the University’s honor system.
McCay said he’s seen about three illegal Adderall possession cases come to honor court since his term began in April. The honor court does not keep records of particular drugs involved in cases.
Illegal possession of Adderall carries a minimum sanction of a semester’s suspension, while manufacturing, selling or distributing the drug has a minimum punishment of expulsion, he said.
He said the task force conducting the ongoing honor system review might discuss adding the unauthorized use of medication for aiding in academic performance to the code.
Jan Boxill, chairwoman of the faculty, said the faculty advisory committee for the honor system review would look at the implications of classifying the unauthorized use of Adderall as cheating.
“It’s not easy to single out Adderall like we single out steroids,” she said.
“It’s a drug that’s more like coffee in its effects, so would we also limit the amount of coffee students would be able to take? We have to take a careful look.”
Randy Young, spokesman for UNC-CH’s Department of Public Safety, said the department would only respond to a case of illegal Adderall possession if a complaint was issued.
“We just haven’t gotten complaints of misuse,” he said. “It’s not something that’s ostentatious in use. There’s no odor that’s given off.”
Allen O’Barr, director of counseling and wellness services at the University’s Campus Health Services, said there is risk associated with taking unprescribed Adderall.
“It’s risky,” he said. “It is monkeying around with the brain’s chemicals.”
Adderall releases a chemical pleasure-killer called dopamine, which is the primary chemical that leads to addiction, he said.
Since Adderall is a stimulant, it also has the potential to expose underlying predispositions for mental illness, like anxiety and psychosis, he said.
He said the number of students asking Campus Health for an Adderall prescription has declined in recent years — a decrease he attributes to a policy requiring students to undergo psychological testing before being diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder in order to receive Adderall.
Even though McClain occasionally uses the drug, she said she doesn’t think students should use it.
“I don’t think it’s cheating because I don’t think anyone needs it,” she said. “It’s just a Band-Aid for some bigger problem. I feel like it’s overprescribed.”
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