Half-way through the semester, students at the University of Colorado at Boulder are feeling the pressure to succeed.
For some students, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder medication seems like an easy solution to help them focus on their schoolwork.
Kayla Brown, a 19-year-old CU student, was diagnosed with ADD her freshman year of high school. Brown went to see a doctor after she noticed she was having a hard time transitioning from middle school.
“I took a questionnaire about what distracts you and what you feel like when you’re studying,” Brown said. “Then I saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed me and put me on Adderall.”
The Psychological Health and Psychiatry (PHP) Clinic in CU’s Wardenburg Health Center offers a similar service that assesses and treats students with ADD/ADHD.
According to their website, the initial screening interview appointment takes about one hour. For clients who have sufficient documentation from an assessment from the past three years, the people at PHP will make treatment recommendations without further evaluation. The initial intake assessment fee is $161, but is covered by the Student Gold Health Insurance.
For those who don’t have sufficient documentation but results from their initial interview suggest they might have ADD or ADHD, PHP gives clients the chance to complete their full assessment at Wardenburg.
This full assessment costs $500 and includes the initial interview, some psychological testing and an interview with a parent or guardian about any ADD/ADHD symptoms the client had as a child.
Based on the results provided in the written report, PHP makes recommendations for further services that may include a medication evaluation, contact with Disability Services and/or psychotherapy.
Brown is glad she went through a similar process to get diagnosed. Seeing a doctor was very important so she could get on the right dosage and know what side effects to expect.
“It was hard to sleep at night because it’s a stimulant,” Brown said. “When I was on too high of a dosage, I felt like a zombie, and it made me depressed.”
Since Brown has been on the appropriate dosage, she’s seen positive changes. Her grades have gone up, and she has an easier time concentrating.
However, she also knows that those are the same reasons why people without prescriptions take the medication. Brown gets upset that people taking it recreationally takes away the seriousness of the disorder.
Nineteen-year-old CU student, Lindsey Rubens does not have ADD, but admits to taking Adderall about once a month to help her get her work done.
“You’re focused, you get what you need to done and you’re a lot more motivated,” Rubens said. “But I view Adderall as like using steroids in sports. It enhances your normal ability, but in essence it’s a type of cheat.”
Even though she thinks it gives non-prescribed students an unfair advantage, she does understand why college students take the drugs.
“I think it’s normal for college students,” Rubens said. “With a job, you go to work and you can come home and be done. With school, you go to school and come back home and have more work to do. That’s why it’s a prime time to use it now.”
Rubens doesn’t worry about taking a pill that she is not prescribed, but Brown has her concerns about non-prescribed users. Brown has seen people take too much of the medication and gotten sick from it and even have seizures, and worries that with this, people don’t take the disorder and the medication as seriously as they should.
“If I had a choice I wouldn’t be on Adderall all the time,” Brown said. “I don’t care if other people do it, but it makes me mad when it seems like I don’t need it. They’re just abusing it as a drug, and not treating it as a disorder.”