Attention Deficit Disorder medications are all over the University of Wisconsin.

These medications make you more productive, make studying easier and let you party longer. They give you a “rush.”

All sounds like good things right? I thought so too.

My first experiences with ADD medications were in high school. The first time was sophomore year, when a friend of mine told me he would be going on medications for ADD. I noticed a change in him. He was less happy-go-lucky, more serious. I didn’t like what they had done to him. Other friends also received prescriptions in high school, and some complained about how it affected their mood.

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Later on, friends began to take them at parties simply to stay up longer and drink more. I never thought about the drugs in that context as anything more than a super strong cup of coffee.

That changed during college. After a tough first semester away from home, I made an appointment with a psychologist to discuss some of the issues I was facing, both socially and academically.

Though my grades were good, I felt I had trouble engaging or focusing in the classroom. I also felt anxious socially, which I mostly attributed to being in a new setting, 1,000 miles away from home.

The doctor had an interesting idea about what may be at play here: ADD.

I was started on Vyvanse not long after that session. At first I enjoyed the drug. I felt like I had more energy, was happier and could focus on things I would normally “half ass.” In class, I found myself contributing more, and paying better attention. Yet I felt like I still was not quite where I could be, so my doctor increased the dosage.

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Things slowly began to deteriorate, even as they felt to me like they were getting better. I started chain-smoking to deal with the anxiety the medication give me. I found myself fighting with my parents more, and questioning if they truly loved me. I thought I was finding myself, but really I was losing myself in a rush of stimulation.

I eventually realized things were not OK when I stayed up for 72 hours straight, not because I wanted to, but because I had to. I could not sleep. I spent my nights chain-smoking and journaling. I called my parents on my third sleepless night, and my dad flew out the next day to see me. Even after that experience, I stayed on the medication, which the doctor adjusted to a lower dosage.

But the damage was done; I had completely lost myself. I was drinking harder and longer, and continued fighting with my parents. Things reached a head when I got in a massive screaming match with my parents about getting a tattoo. I was finally taken off the medication, much to my dismay at the time.

As I withdrew from the medication and tried to grind through finals without the “super coffee” I had grown accustomed to, I felt tremendous anger at my parents and my doctor for taking me off them. It took me coming home for the summer to realize how out of control things had gotten. I looked back on my social media posts and journals and realized that was not me. I had changed on the medication, and I am forever grateful to be off them.

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What scares me is how prevalent they are in this country and generation. ADD diagnoses has risen massively in recent years. Are there really that many more kids out there with ADD or are we just throwing pills at anyone who gets bored in school?

These drugs are far too common on college campuses. Too many kids have prescriptions, or take them illicitly. These drugs are a serious matter, and the tone surrounding them is far too casual.

This is not to say these medications do not have any role. There is a large population of people who benefit greatly from them. Furthermore, there are plenty of kids who take them occasionally to study, and never get “hooked” or lose themselves.

But I think they are being overprescribed. And the dangers of these drugs are real. They are stimulants, much like methamphetamines and cocaine. We need to treat them with the respect they warrant.

Eric Hilkert ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in finance.