Adderall abuse in college

I was recently asked a question of my ask.fm account (http://ask.fm/MDPhDToBe) regarding how I feel about Adderall abuse in college. Unfortunately, my response was too long to fit in the space allotted for a response because it is such an important topic to address. Therefore, here are my thoughts:

I highly suggest that you do not abuse Adderall or any other prescription drug, especially to help you do well in college. These drugs are only available by prescription for a reason. If you feel you need to take it for self-diagnosed ADHD or narcolepsy, see your doctor to be diagnosed and get a prescription that way.

If you need more convincing, here’s some reasons why abusing Adderall is a bad idea:

1) Side effects and drug interactions. Adderall has plenty of side effects, some minor, some serious. Overdosing can result in cardiac and/or pulmonary arrest, death, severe and lasting mental effects/defects to name a few. If you abuse Adderall, your tolerance to the drug will likely go down so you will likely take more and more of it, increasing your chance of overdosing. If you overdose and you’re anywhere but near medical professionals, your chance of living is slim. This is an extreme case, but it is always a possibility. Other side effects include anxiety, transient depression, heart palpitations, elevation of blood pressure, Tourette’s syndrome, seizures, stroke, and psychotic episodes or plain old psychosis. The negative effects of taking Adderall are amplified by drug interactions. There are 488 drugs that have drug interactions with Adderall, 36 of those interactions are major. Even the common drugs acetaminophen (found in Tylenol) and ALCOHOL can amplify the negative side effects of Adderall. Receiving a prescription from a doctor is important because they will make sure that you can avoid these detrimental drug interactions.

2) Addiction. Adderall is highly addictive, so much that you will find it difficult to ever study again without it. As I previously mentioned, this can lead to a greater addiction as tolerance is increased which increases your chance of overdosing and it can lead to a whirlwind of addiction to other drugs.

3) THE LAW. THE SALE, POSSESSION, AND USE OF ADDERALL FOR ILLEGITIMATE PURPOSES IS A FELONY. FELONIES ARE ON YOUR RECORD. MEDICAL SCHOOLS, FUTURE EMPLOYERS, ETC. CHECK YOUR LEGAL RECORD. THEY WILL PROBABLY NOT LOOK ON IT TOO KINDLY. PLUS, FELONIES ARE PUNISHABLE BY DEATH OR IMPRISONMENT IN EXCESS OF ONE YEAR. DON’T RISK IT.

4) Violation of honor code. While this isn’t a thing at every school, some schools like Wesleyan University are taking the stance that the use of pharmaceutical study aids, like Ritalin and Adderall by students without a prescription is a violation of the university’s academic honor code.  Many other universities hold a similar prohibition through their non-academic honor codes. It’s not even that you will get caught, but you will then have to live with knowing that your academic success is partially attributed to taking an illicit drug. It’s not fair to your fellow students who are not taking drugs to help them study and it’s not fair to you because of its negative effects on your body and it will likely lead to dissatisfaction with studying without it. If you ever run out of it, you’re screwed.

BOTTOM LINE: DO NOT ABUSE PRESCRIPTION DRUGS. Strive for academic success in an honest way. If you need to help yourself focus on studying, drink coffee. Caffeine is still a drug but it a legal drug that is less potent, less dangerous, and available to all. Even better yet, EXERCISE. Exercise has been shown to boost your mental focus and cognitive performance for any challenging task you face that day. Plenty of us have made it through college without using prescription drugs to help us study, so it can be done without drug abuse.

Related articles:

Adderall: The Most Abused Prescription Drug in America. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-ronald-ricker-and-dr-venus-nicolino/adderall-the-most-abused_b_619549.html

Are study drugs a form of cheating? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/13/wesleyan-university-answe_n_761495.html

4 Ways to exercise to boost brain power. http://www.boston.com/dailydose/2013/03/07/ways-exercise-can-boost-your-mental-performance/nI4DA55GaKDZbdrAk9EmiO/story.html


Featured image: Instagram | Hanna Erickson

Fighting demons

I never thought I would be so upset about the loss someone who was so mean to me.

In middle school, he made fun of me for being good at school, then tried to get me to give him answers. He put me down about my Lord of the Rings obsession. He was a bully, someone I tried to avoid. As we moved on to high school, I lost most knowledge of him. I think we may have had a class or two together, but even if we did, we didn’t interact. He was a popular jock – a hockey player, perhaps other sports as well – but he was still a relatively smart kid from the little of him I heard. I knew he was the kind that drank and partied, but so was many at my school. We graduated, moved on to college, and he was gone from my world until last fall when I found out he died from a drug overdose.

Later, I found out that he’s had issues with drugs, went to rehab this summer, and had transferred colleges so that he could live at home.

He was 21-years-old. He hadn’t even finished college. He had his whole future ahead of him. As I read the posts on his Facebook wall of people’s memories of him, he came off as a guy with a great personality, a really funny, nice and caring person. It makes me wish that I had got to know him and not let my 7th grade interactions with him affect my idea of him as a person.

He isn’t the first of my graduating class to die, but he is the first to die of a – can I say without seeming heartless – preventable cause, which makes it no better or worse than the other accidental deaths but I can’t shake this off. I can’t help but think what if someone had helped him? What if he had made the conscious decision to fight his addiction? Why did his abuse of drugs start? Why did his rehab not work? Why did his life have to end at such a young age? What can I do to help others so they do not succumb to this same fate? Such questions and more continue to race through my head.

And so I beg of all of you, whether you do drugs or know someone who does drugs, BE SAFE and WATCH OUT FOR EACH OTHER. You may think that you’re consuming a safe amount of the drug, but you’re still putting something into your body that should not be in your body and you don’t know how you’ll react. The human body is essentially a fine-tuned chemical reaction and you are introducing a new reactant that can totally shift the equilibrium past a threshold for the body to function. You don’t know if the drug is more or less pure than the drug that you had last time, so you may think you’re taking a safe dose, but you may not be. The formulation of drugs changes especially when they’re illegal and non-regulated drugs. Or you might just get carried away in the heat of the moment and consume too much. If you have a drug problem, please ask for help. Your loved ones will thank you. No high is worth risking your life. I repeat, NO HIGH IS WORTH RISKING YOUR LIFE.

I’ve always known that drug overdosage is a problem, but I now have a face to put to it. We were never friends, but we were classmates, and now he is someone that I will never forget. RIP.

This is reposted from my old blog, premdphdlife.wordpress.com. Today would have been his 22nd birthday, so I think it’s appropriate to post it again in my new more permanent blog. Thinking of you, bud.

When I Synthesize My Molecule

When I synthesize my standard molecule in a reaction consisting of a drug, guanine, and cysteine for biological analysis in my lab, I see it not just as organic chemistry but also as a reaction in the body. It is a simplified biological system. The cysteine is part of a large protein and the DNA is part of an even larger chromosome. The drug has already been infused into the blood stream, distributed throughout the body while associating and dissociating with various biomolecules, absorbed into the cells, and has now entered the nucleus of a cancer cell. When the reaction occurs inside the cell as it is occurring on my lab bench, it will create a lesion to the DNA so bulky that it could stop DNA replication requiring either repair or apoptosis of the cell (ideally) thus killing the cancer cell.

It is so much more than understanding organic chemistry and performing a chemical reaction. It is looking at a specific part of that drug’s effect on the body and seeking to understand it on a molecular level. Yes, the drug is effective at treating certain cancers, but it is also useful to know why the drug is so capable. If we look to further understanding the chemical interactions that occur, perhaps we can be able to design future generation drugs from this drug to improve the efficacy and specificity of treatment to better eradicate cancer.

But we wouldn’t understand it if we didn’t have chemistry.