We live in a really fast-paced world. And, while some of us can keep up with it, others just can't.
Our bodies aren't necessarily hard-wired for the society in which we find ourselves today. We're constantly Snapchatting things as mundane as sunset to people, Instagramming every single meal we eat and ranting about our political beliefs on Facebook.
All the while, you know, just living normal lives.
When you think about all of these crazy distractions we now have from our everyday routines, it might not necessarily be surprising that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, affects more than 10 percent of Americans between the ages of 4 and 17.
With that in mind, it's safe to say that most of us personally know someone with ADHD. To dig a little deeper, even more of us probably know someone with barely legal access to the medications associated with ADHD.
At the very first college party I ever attended, some guy graciously offered up his “Addies” for me to snort off his sticky, beer stained table. As a tiny little freshman, the mere suggestion of snorting anything was more than enough to traumatize me.
But, I quickly learned that Addies were and still are “cool.” Whether you need it to study for finals or for a night out, it's readily available. And we're using it, a lot.
Full-time college students are twice as likely to use Adderall as non-students of the same age.
Adderall contains two central nervous stimulants, amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, which ultimately help people with ADHD control their behaviors and focus on everyday tasks.
But, if you don't need it to focus on everyday tasks, Adderall can be really, really helpful. If you've slept through every single philosophy lecture of the entire semester, and you're 18 hours away from taking the cumulative final, Adderall can be your saving grace.
Or, if you're just trying to add to your buzz on a Friday night, snorting Adderall can also become particularly appealing. But, why are so many people able to get their hands on these pills so easily?
As it turns out, getting a prescription for drugs like Adderall is relatively simple. In most cases, to determine if a person has ADHD, a self-report checklist is administered, thus making it very easy to feign your answers.
In a 2008 study, as many as 93 percent of students in a college course were able to fake the appropriate pattern of ADHD symptoms after having studied the diagnostic criteria for just five minutes.
So, college students are good bullsh*tters? Shocker.
Still, it's pretty strange that a Schedule II drug can be obtained after nothing more than a little questionnaire. No blood tests, no EKGs, no extensive look into a person's psychological background.
And it's certainly no secret that the side effects associated with drugs like Adderall can be pretty dangerous.
Users can potentially suffer from dizziness, fever, seizures, paranoia, shortness of breath, swelling and itching, among many, many other side effects.
Now, these facts are not meant to distract from the intended benefits of this medication. More often than not, these drugs usually do end up in the right hands, of people who genuinely need them.
Recently, a friend of mine was hired almost straight out of college by a really huge engineering company. Not long into starting the job, he realized the work required much more focus than he'd anticipated, and he began to consider getting a prescription for Adderall.
My parents told me that when I was younger, one of my doctors had suspected that I might have ADHD. But, it didn't seem to affect my performance in school or in any other aspect of my life, so we decided I shouldn't get a prescription until it seemed like it actually did become an issue.
And, even when that time did come, once he started his new job, he went through much more than just a simple self-report to obtain his prescription.
I made an appointment with a psychiatrist, and when I got there, she required that I get a blood test and an EKG done first before anything. I thought it was all pretty standard.
His doctor administered a self-report in addition to these other medical tests.
After explaining his reasons for wanting the meds, and after getting a clean bill of health, he got his prescription. And, even once the drugs were in his possession, he's consistently had a very wary attitude toward the whole situation.
I'm not a huge fan of the idea of taking pills every day. My prescription is 'as needed,' and that's how I use it. I only take it at work when I need the extra boost.
Clearly, drugs like Adderall don't always end up in the wrong hands. But that's no excuse to ignore the slightly uglier facts about abuse and addiction.
And, there's no uglier circumstances than what happened to Richard Fee, a college graduate who had aspirations to attend medical school before he took his own life after becoming addicted to Adderall.
Once Fee started experiencing violent delusions and erratic mood swings, he checked into a psychiatric hospital for a week.
Shortly thereafter, Fee's doctor prescribed him 90 more days of Adderall. The 24-year-old hanged himself in his closet just two weeks after the prescription expired.
Again, Richard Fee's story isn't necessarily the precedent by which to judge this controversial issue. Nor is my friend's more fortunate experience with ADHD.
And as with anything, there are always plenty of factors to consider: A person's psychological background, his or her family history, ability to get medical insurance, and the list can go on and on.
Dr. Charles Parker, a psychiatrist in Virginia Beach, spoke to the New York Times about Fee's tragic situation, and how it reflects on the larger issue among young adults. Fee said,
We have a significant travesty being done in this country with how the diagnosis is being made and the meds are being administered. I think it's an abnegation of trust. The public needs to say this is totally unacceptable and walk out.