Photo by Anna Meassick | Many students turn Adderall to focus on studying, but the drug long-term health risks for those who aren’t prescribed it.

Researchers at the University of Rhode Island have discovered that Adderall, a drug used to manage attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, has little impact on the cognitive performance of healthy college students.

Lisa Weyandt, a psychology professor at the University of Rhode Island and Tara White, assistant professor of research in behavioral and social sciences at Brown University, conducted a study examining the cognitive effects of ADHD drugs, like Adderall, on non-diagnosed ADHD college students.

Weyandt and White conducted the study by giving 13 participants 30 mg of Adderall and then measured their performance on neurocognitive tests while on and off the drug. “Adderall gives you more energy to focus, but at the end of the day, it did not make them more cognizant or smart,” Weyandt said.

In 2016, John Hopkins University found that the number of college students who use Adderall without a prescription is rising. In other research, Weyandt estimates that anywhere from five to 35 percent of college students are abusing prescription drugs.

“The problem is that students get themselves in a situation where they need to get work done more quickly,” Weyandt said. “They panic so they try to find something to help them through.”

Weyandt explained that without being monitored by a physician, these college students are putting themselves at risk for serious health problems. College students who misuse drugs like Adderall generally have no idea what a safe dose is. The American Addiction Center finds that abusing Adderall can cause issues that range from strokes, seizures and heart attacks. Other consequences include cardiovascular issues, headaches, tremors, trouble breathing, insomnia and weight loss.

Adderall also may affect individuals mentally as well. Weyandt says that the drug increases mood, making people feel better; however, it is not an effective treatment for depression. According to ABC News, someone who is dependent on Adderall may have a greater risk of aggression and suicidal thoughts. Anxiety and panic attacks are also potential side effects.

Weyandt hopes to replicate her study with a larger group to get more accurate data. Once that is done, the goal would then be to get the research out for public knowledge so people are more aware and prevention methods can be implemented.

A current prevention method is for students to stay on top of their academic work. “Once students get stressed out and fall behind, it snowballs,” said Weyandt, “There are better and safer ways to go than turn to drugs.”

The University has many on-campus resources to aid students with stress and their classes. Professors typically have office hours and are always open to questions from students. Students can also visit the Academic Enhancement Center (AEC) which offers tutoring, writing help, and academic skills consulting.
For students who may need additional support for learning modifications, they can visit Disability Services for Students.

As for managing stress and other mental health problems, students can go to the URI counseling center. The Counseling Center provides confidential support for personal, emotional, and academic well-being. These services include individual counseling, group counseling, and referrals for assessments.