While it is typical of the college experience to procrastinate, be unable to concentrate or be restless when the time comes to focus on a necessary task, millions of young adults undergo these daily experiences on a chronic level, as symptoms of ADHD.
ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a neurodevelopmental psychiatric disorder identified by persistent inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), people who suffer from ADHD have trouble functioning at home and in school without medication or constant reminders to stay focused. Additionally, they may have difficulty making and keeping friends. If left untreated, ADHD can interfere with all aspects of life including school, work and home, as well as social and emotional development.
ADHD in college has become a rising topic of discussion over the course of the last seven years, according to the APA. Federal law mandates that all colleges and universities have written policies about what students’ rights are concerning learning disabilities and how they can receive accommodations. However, that is not to definitively say that students who are living with ADHD are protected from the stigma that is often associated with the disorder.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the lack of a conclusive causal functioning in the brain leads many onlookers to assume that ADHD is a manufactured condition and that severe cases can be treated without medication at all. “There simply should be no controversy that ADHD does exist … the science speaks for itself,” said Russell Barkley, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina, in an interview with PBS. “The science is affirmative … that it’s a real disorder. It’s valid, and it can be managed, in many cases, by using stimulant medication in combination with other treatments.” In the case of medications, the most common are Ritalin and Adderall, both of which have become fairly common on college campuses in particular.
For those who endure the effects of ADHD on a daily basis, tasks like taking exams in a regular classroom setting can be extremely difficult and often lead to separate times and rooms for students with the disorder to complete the tests. In this way, it is not uncommon for onlookers to claim that students with ADHD are simply opting for additional testing time, which could come off as unfair to other students taking the same test with less time. However, this extra time allocation is especially beneficial to students with ADHD because it allows them the opportunity to showcase their capabilities without being rushed or pressured by the clock just to finish the test—pressure that is not as big of an obstacle for students without ADHD.
In a fast-paced world where there often seems to be endless work and responsibility, Adderall supplied by a friend down the hall can be an easy solution: “Adderall is readily available, reasonably priced, neat and well worth the effects,” says a Brandeis sophomore who has not been officially diagnosed with ADHD and asked to remain anonymous. “I have learned that addy is really chill—you can do it whenever and the results are so well worth it. Whether you need it to study for finals or for a night out, it’s readily available.”
At Brandeis, the amount of readily available ADHD drugs has been slightly increasing over the years, according to members of the student body who have been using the medication illegally. This increase in availability is seen by the students as a positive sign. “The fact that these drugs are being used to just provide a little boost that help push students toward the right direction, completing their school work efficiently and effectively, is better than doing an abundance of other drugs or pills,” a Brandeis junior said.
Unlike other drugs that are often acquired in questionable circumstances or have unverified ingredients, some student users feel that Adderall is simply and often amicably distributed from friend to friend or classmate to classmate. In most cases, to determine if a person has ADHD, a self-report checklist is administered, thus making it very easy to feign the answers. In an APA 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 only five minutes.
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the disorder has now been diagnosed in over 15 percent of young adults between the ages of 17 and 23. The increase in Americans being treated for ADHD with medication is a 36-percent rise since 2012, and 4.8 million people covered by private health insurance have filled at least one prescription for ADHD.
While the widespread use of ADHD medication, especially on college campuses, often dilutes the perceived seriousness of the disorder, ADHD is indeed a reality students diagnosed professionally face every day.