Before your young adult leaves for college and during their time at school, you’ll have many important conversations. You’ll likely talk to them about alcohol and drugs, but will you bring up Adderall and other similar, stimulant drugs? On a college campus, your student is highly likely to encounter stimulant drugs used for both studying and partying. Prescription stimulants include amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, methylphenidate, and lisdexamfetamine, which commonly go by the brand names Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse. While there are students who are legitimately prescribed these medications, parents should be aware of non-prescribed misuse of these drugs on college campuses. These drugs are often referred to as “study drugs,” as students will use them to increase focus and stay awake for long periods of time.
18-to-25 year olds were more likely than any other age group to misuse Adderall without a prescription, according to 2016 research in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. While the number of prescriptions for the stimulant Adderall has remained unchanged among young adults over recent years, “misuse and emergency room visits related to the drug have risen dramatically in this group,” according to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research from 2016.
Parents play an important role in addressing substance abuse on college campuses, and stimulants are no different. Dr. Alan D. DeSantis, a professor of Communication at the University of Kentucky, has conducted research on the social stigma of Adderall use among college students. He says that this information is needed most by parents, because students are already well aware of the presence of these drugs on campuses. “When parents hear this, they are floored, they have no idea,” DeSantis says.
Stephanie Benson-Gonzales, Assistant Director of Parent Relations and Communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says she does not hear from parents about this issue specifically. “I have heard from our police department on campus and housing staff that Adderall use is a problem,” Benson-Gonzales says. “I actually can’t think of a parent who has outreached to me about it, but I think that shows a disconnect if we’re hearing from campus police about this, but not parents.” Here are some things that parents of college students should know about stimulant drug use on campuses.