Multiple journalists from the Forest Scout contributed to this story. All interviewees and sources requested anonymity.
A high schooler struggling with ADHD takes Adderall with his breakfast, ready for it to kick in so he can focus on his school work. Unable to concentrate without it, the medicine allows him to center his attention on his classes and learn.
A high schooler at a party with his friends drinking washes down Adderall with a beer, ready for it to kick in so he can continue drinking all night. The medicine allows him to, verbatim, “Get super [expletive] up.” As the night winds down, he takes another so that he can speak to his parents without them realizing he’s under the influence.
A high schooler gets ready for a dinner with her friends. As she puts on tight jeans and crop tops, she envies their bodies and wishes she were skinnier. She runs to the bathroom before they leave to catch the train to the city and takes Adderall, ready for it to kick in so she won’t have an appetite all night. The medicine allows her to be distracted so she won’t even think about food.
A college student begins to stress out about finals, scared of “bombing” every one of her tests. She texts her classmate– a known seller of Adderall– and asks for a few pills to get through the week of studying. The dealer replies yes, 10 pills for $50. The medicine will allow her to make it through the long hours of cramming ahead of her.
One of these people is prescribed, three are not– a snapshot of the Adderall epidemic taking over Lake Forest High School and beyond.
Adderall was invented in 1996 by Shire Pharmaceuticals to compete with other ADD and ADHD medications. The drug is made up of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, two central nervous system stimulants that affect neurotransmitters in the brain that affect hyperactivity and impulse control. Adderall is a medicine that your body gains a tolerance to, so as use increases, a higher dosage is required for the same effect. Furthermore, after prolonged use of the drug, an addiction or dependency can be developed.
One anonymous Lake Forest High School student with ADD, who is prescribed Adderall, saw an increase in their ability to complete assignments and focus in classes. However, they did not experience a common side effect of the drug–loss of appetite. “Lots of people said that I wouldn’t be hungry after taking it, but my appetite didn’t change at all.”
Another prescribed student with ADD– who chose to remain anonymous–experienced the same positive effect of heightened focus, but lost their appetite completely. “When I started taking Adderall, it completely ruined my appetite. It made me forget to eat.”
While some see the loss of appetite side effect as a negative, others view it as one of its desired and coveted benefits. Some students, most notably high school-aged girls, turn to Adderall for a quick-fix weight loss method. Its ability to suppress appetite is appealing to many and is, of course, more powerful than natural dietary appetite suppressants like green tea extract or saffron extract. Adderall causes users to forget about food and not think about their hunger at all. The science behind it: amphetamine, the main ingredient of Adderall. Amphetamines cause the release of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. These stimulants cause a “fight or flight” response in the body, so blood is diverted from less important areas, like digestion, to more important areas like the heart and muscles. When digestion slows, stomach acidity increases, and the product is a suppressed appetite and, to many users’ pleasure, a loss in weight.
Using Adderall for weight loss is just one of the ways the drug is abused, however. High schoolers and college students turn to it to get drunk faster and stay drunk longer. An anonymous, unprescribed LFHS student said, “When you take Adderall it makes you drunk faster and it allows you to drink longer.” Whether it be taken orally or by inhalation, Adderall, when paired with alcohol, delivers a “euphoric, energized” feeling. It’s an easy road to turn down when someone is out at a party if they want to “have more fun.” The majority of students, of course, don’t realize the repercussions of pairing Adderall with alcohol. Ironically, most students who snort Adderall would never put it on the same level as cocaine. But snorting both drugs can lead to comas, heart attacks, brain damage, or death. All it takes is one hit for your body to say uncle.
Unprescribed high schoolers don’t solely use Adderall for lifestyle purposes, but also to improve their grades or test scores. More specifically, many unprescribed students take it when studying and taking the ACT to improve their score. While some see major improvement in their test performance, others may see little to no enhancement in the scores because they aren’t used to the effects of Adderall. One unprescribed LFHS student, who requested anonymity as well, admitted, “I took Adderall before one of the ACTs I took, and my score stayed the exact same. I think it was because I was so focused, I spent too much time on each problem and ran out of time at the end of each section.”
Furthermore, countless unprescribed students have the mindset that when time is short– and Adderall is available– it is a quick fix to cramming as effectively as possible. This attitude not only creates a dependence on Adderall, but also fosters the notion that using it without a valid prescription is acceptable.
Fundamentally speaking, high schoolers mimic one another’s behavior without second thought. If someone knows their friend–who isn’t prescribed Adderall, mind you–is taking it and excelling, they’re more inclined to try it to enhance their own academic performance. At the end of the day, it’s every individual’s choice.
Either become dependent on a prescription drug to mask your hunger, or opt to lose weight naturally with alterations to your diet and exercise plan; you can choose to study effectively with foresight, not putting your life and in danger due to a dependence on amphetamines. Or, you can turn to an illegal quick-fix, an impetus for developing more detrimental habits down the road as you grow independent.
A basement is filled with kids, Red Solo cups scattered, empty vodka bottles lining the countertop. Rap music and SoundCloud remixes blast over the speakers as a beer pong game begins and girls pose for a Snapchat story. In the corner of your eye, you see your friend crush up an Adderall and snort it. This time, you don’t. Smart. At least now you know what it does to your body.