My RA back in college had an exemplary record- Honor roll, numerous academic and extracurricular awards, he was an exemplary student with a respectable reputation to boot. It’s all the more of a shame that after a random drug test, he popped hot and wasn’t able to graduate, thus forced to leave the campus about a week before he would have been able to walk across the stage, take those classic post-ceremony photos of glee and pride with his family, and move on with his life. Was it Pot? Cocaine? Heroine? No, he didn’t get high at all actually or even go meet with some shady drug dealer.
It was a handful of Adderall tablets his roommate had given him so he could stay up longer to study for final exams that gave him his new moniker- “druggy.”
His story is like that of so many (potentially thousands) of college students each year who, under the immense pressure to succeed on final exams, go to remarkable lengths to stay awake, focus, and all the while trying to remain calm and balanced enough to function. From slamming cans of energy drinks to unhealthy amounts of coffee and other free and easily acceptable commercial stimulants, it’s quite odd when you observe the issue for what it really is to determine where the line is drawn between what is an acceptable stimulant and what isn’t.
Adderall described by Megan Henry from the Indianapolis Star is “typically prescribed to people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and attention deficit disorder. It is a central nervous stimulant that has a reverse effect on those with these disorders, making them calm and focused.” So where does the real issue come into play?
First, there is the legality of the matter, where Henry points out Adderall is still considered legally a “Schedule II drug, meaning it is a controlled substance with high potential for abuse and addiction.” Secondly, the side effects of this amphetamine sound even worse, and include such possibilities as “irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, restlessness, anxiety, nervousness, paranoia, headache, dizziness” and so on. Nothing however leads immediately to death or permanent disablement (when used without a prescription) as your mind would possibly lead you to believe based on our heavily fear based drug culture.
There is another, more easily obtainable source for the same type of results (varying results, mind you) you can purchase without the hassle or even a doctor. Much like the side effects of Adderall, this product too causes heart palpitations, tremors, agitation, insomnia, dizziness, and headaches. Not to forget, it is also widely considered very addictive much like anything can be. This mystery product has been labeled everything from a miracle of modern science to a staple in a college student and working person’s regular diet- Monster Energy Drink.
The main issue is twofold- the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) who monitors and approves food and drugs for commercial and non-commercial purposes separates items based on their intention, therefore dictating its accessibility. The purpose of Adderall is to fight the symptoms of ADHD so that those with it can get the help they need, therefore it is strictly prescribed for medical reasons. Monster energy drink, however, is a food/beverage product, meant to make the consumer more awake and energized (based off the marketing language Monster and other products like Red Bull and Five Hour Energy have pushed for decades). So what truly dictates what drugs get put on the shelf and what gets put behind a pharmacist’s counter? That issue becomes far more complicated and would require a separate examination entirely.
While breaking the law or any statement of principles is never a wise decision, the question remains as to why the stigma surrounding stimulants remains so. How is one student (and we all remember that person from our college days) who slams back a whole case of energy drinks able to walk away without the stigma of an addict addicted to the stimulating effects while a person who takes a pill one time for the same effects now labeled by society-at-large as a drug fiend?
This has nothing to do with the results and side effects of such products and more so to do with the legal regulatory classifications and the confusing, often lie-filled drug fascinated world that pop culture and public education have helped create.