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Health Corner: How does Adderall usage look at the UA?

Adderall-related emergency department visits went up by a whopping 156 percent since 2006, according to a new study.

Research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that for adults ages 18 - 25, treatment visits involving Adderall did not change, yet non-medical Adderall use went up 67 percent.

Adderall, a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, is a drug commonly prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Individuals who suffer from ADHD are often easily distracted, have difficulty focusing and have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, among other symptoms.

Like most medications, Adderall comes with potential side effects.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, some possible side effects of the medication include stroke, heart attack, increased blood pressure and even sudden death in patients who have heart defects. As a result, users of the drug are strongly encouraged to be under direct physician supervision when on the medication.

To find out if the UA had a similar trend in Adderall-related emergency visits, the Daily Wildcat spoke with Dr. F. Mazda Shirazi, associate professor at the UA College of Medicine and medical director at the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center.

“We have indeed seen a large increase on stimulant use among college-age kids, both nationwide and at the UA,” Shirazi said. “Specifically, these kids tend to present with severe anxiety, elevated blood pressure and rapid heart rate.”

One of the biggest issues, according to Shirazi, is that many children take Adderall in preparation for midterms and because of the increased energy from Adderall, they often go out and celebrate afterward. Because celebration usually comes with alcohol, this leads to serious consequences.

Alcohol and Adderall should not be used in conjunction because alcohol is a depressant and Adderall is a stimulant. When mixed, users of the drug may find it difficult to know exactly how much they have had to drink, since Adderall lessens the depressive effects of alcohol.

Because of this balancing act, students may increase their risks of alcohol poisoning.

Shirazi also said that many of these kids experiment, adding in Xanax in an effort to counter act the severe anxiety they suffer from Adderall.

Xanax, a highly addictive drug from the benzodiazepine family, is commonly prescribed to treat anxiety disorders.

A recent study published this month found the death rates from overdoses on benzodiazepines increased five-fold in the U.S. since 1996.

While there are numerous reports about the rise in non-medical Adderall use, there are many students on campus who actually need the drug.

A UA senior studying economy and industry, who requested to remain anonymous, has been taking Adderall for six years to treat his ADHD, explained how he feels toward the drug as a patient watching others take it.

“My biggest issue with them taking [Adderall] is that most of them have no idea how to use it,” the student said. “A lot of kids take way more then they need to, putting themselves in real danger.”

The student was diagnosed with ADHD in high school by his family physician and has been taking the drug under supervision.

As a result, his physician was able to monitor his dosage and thoroughly explain the side effects and risks associated with the medication.

The student, however, said that he has been approached numerous times by classmates seeking Adderall and often times obliged their requests, though in limited quantities. This case is not unusual, as a 2011 study found that 62 percent of college students prescribed Adderall diverted the medication to someone else.

Because of all the potential complications of the drug, many are speaking out against the drug and asking for stricter regulations on the medication. Shirazi, however, felt society as a whole could do much more.

“We should also look at how we are evaluating ADHD and how we can treat them with other entities,” Shirazi said. “Such as other coping skills that one can be taught, rather than relying solely on stimulants and chemicals.”


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