Adderall all nighters vs. steady studying

By Elena Schmidt

Final projects, essays, research papers, presentations  and exams are looming on students’ to-do lists as the spring 2010 semester draws to a close.

As due dates approach, students fill their agendas with plans to study ahead, a mere ritual for many who end up using their free time in other ways until crunch time.

“My routine is pretty much the same until the day before any final,” said Al, a U. Miami student who agreed to speak with The Miami Hurricane on the condition of anonymity. He is a frequent user of adderall, a medicine commonly used to treat Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder (ADHD). “My routine then would be to start studying during the evening and then throughout the night and into the day of the final and go into the final having pulled an all nighter.”

For students at UM and other college campuses, stress mounts for even the model student as crunch time approaches all too quickly.

When faced with the pressures of final examinations, the need for a supplement often arises. Often, this need can lead to illegal exchanges of the prescription drug.

Thirty-four percent of surveyed students reported the illegal use of adderall stimulants during times of high academic stress in a survey by the Journal of American College Health from 2005 to 2006.

While it may increase comprehension and alertness, ADHD medication and other stimulants are no replacement for sleep, according to Dr. Rhody Eisenstein, medical co-director of Saint Luke’s Medicine and Research Center, based in St. Louis.

“A lot of students are smart enough that they might get a good grade,” Eisenstein said. “But if they haven’t had enough sleep, they are not at their peak.”

According to Eisenstein, stress, no matter what the cause, will impact one’s ability to sleep, thus impacting one’s overall brain function.  Students between 18 and 22 years old should receive eight hours of sleep every night.

Study regimens that precede a full night’s sleep are the best strategy, but for many students, such a strategy is simply unrealistic or undesirable.

Therefore, they turn to the use of stimulants, which ultimately result in poor sleep habits and deprivation but provide hours of concentration.

“I think adderall is great because it allows you to really procrastinate and also allows your college lifestyle to continue without being really disturbed,” said Sam, a UM student who also agreed to speak to The Miami Hurricane on the condition of anonymity.

Caffeine and adderall, along with comparable stimulants, will temporarily improve concentration, but will not make one perform better than their natural abilities, according to Eisenstein.

Along with a significant increase in one’s ability to concentrate comes some health risks for un-prescribed users, and withdrawal symptoms for adderall abusers.

“It’s definitely not healthy,” Al said. “It kills your appetite, puts you in a bad mood; it dehydrates you. There is definitely a downside, but does it help? Yes. It’s worth all those downsides.”

Al is far from alone in his use of adderall for academic purposes. A Facebook page devoted to the drug includes adderall-related posts from both happy and dissatisfied customers.

“It only took me one hour to write eight pages,” said Kimberly Thomas from Alabama in a comment on the Facebook page. “I’m never doing school work without adderall ever again.”

Elena Schmidt may be contacted at eschmidt@themiamihurricane.com.

Study Tips

-Make a schedule to manage your time

-Schedule in study breaks

-Schedule in sleep

-Exercise

-Prioritize your exams

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