It’s like speed and cocaine — it affects your brain’s dopamine system, leaving you with euphoric feelings and hours of energy, yet doctors regularly prescribe it. On this campus, Adderall is ubiquitous. Simply walk into College Library and you will encounter throngs of bright-eyed students at the wee-hours of the night cramming for exams or rapidly typing away in the computer lab. At 3a.m. you may think your fellow studiers are motivated, but many are just high on drugs.

Adderall is the new “all night full” — students swear by it as a means of balancing an active social life with academic success. Originally intended as a prescription drug for people with attention deficit disorder (ADD), Adderall has become the most widely abused drug on college campuses.

While many are privy to information about substances with long-standing histories, including binge-drinking and marijuana, Adderall has only been on the market since the early 1990s and thus information about its long-term effects is sketchy. According to the Food and Drug Administration, Adderall falls into a category of drugs characterized with the “highest abuse potential and dependence profile.” Doctors may have failed to realize this when they began prescribing amphetamines such as Adderall and its cousin drug Ritalin to pre-school and elementary-aged children unable to concentrate in the classroom.

We are the first generation to grow up with a drug that has been dubbed “kiddie coke,” and therefore we have easy access to millions of these controversial pills. In the last 10 years, the number of preschoolers taking ADD/ADHA drugs has tripled; the number of school-aged children has multiplied by 20. Many of us, now in our late teens and early 20s, are legally prescribed Adderall. But since the doctor signed our prescription, our unruly behavior and inability to concentrate associated with ADD has waned. And now instead of taking the drug for a neurobiological brain disorder (ADD), we overdose on it to keep up with the competitive nature of our university.

Not only does Adderall enhance one’s ability to concentrate, but it is also linked to side effects that appeal to many students. It often diminishes one’s appetite, increases heart rate and causes insomnia. During midterms and finals, why should one worry about “normal” body functions such as eating and sleeping?

If one small pill enhances users or abusers attentiveness and thus holds the capacity to stimulate abnormally long periods of studying, what is the problem with Adderall? Without a prescription, it is illegal. It is highly addictive — once an Adderall user always an Adderall user. And after the drug wares off, you may encounter a sudden crash resulting in a painful headache. But for students desperate to maintain a position on the success ladder, the benefits of Adderall, Ritalin and other amphetamines seem to outweigh the risks.

We are told to complete multiple majors, earn a spot on the Dean’s List, participate in extra-curricular activities, eat healthy and exercise. But we are anxious — we are tired of staying in on Thursday nights to write a 10-page paper. We are sick of Monday morning exams the day after Halloween weekend. So instead of giving up our lives for school, we take a few pills and make our time in the stacks more productive.

Notwithstanding its benefits, Adderall is a relatively new drug compound and therefore no solid medical research exists on its long-term effects. Just this fall, the drug manufacturer Merck pulled the arthritis pain reliever Vioxx off the market after a study revealed that Vioxx was associated with increasing the risk of cardiac problems. Today we praise Adderall as a “godsend,” but what new information will surface in the future? So before popping pills, think about whether good grades are worth risking your health. Good luck on finals!

Rachel Alkon ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in English/creative writing.