NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The use and abuse of Adderall is prevalent on high school and college campuses, but the short- and long-term risks of using the prescription drug are still unknown to many.
"I think people just party and then think, 'I'm exhausted so I'm going to take Adderall so I can focus on studying,' and have no idea what any of the risks are," student Natalie Josefsberg said.
John Hopkins researchers say young adults between 18 and 25 abuse Adderall the most. The drug is commonly prescribed for attention disorders, but that is not always the reason it is used.
"It's definitely a study drug, study helper. It makes you more focused. Kids really use it for tests," student Emma Meyerkoph said. "It's definitely still illegal and kids do it underground, but if you're a kid and want to get it, you can."
"Everybody just wants it. They think it's going to make them get better grades," Josefsberg said.
As more students used Adderall to focus for tests, newly released data shows emergency room visits related to Adderall use jumped by 156 percent when there was no change in the number of Adderall prescribed to adults.
"The medical students are telling me that at least 80 percent of them are using for study aids," Dr. Brobson Lutz said. "Teachers and people that work with college students and medical students, I think they really know about [Adderall abuse] but I think they try to ignore it or try not to think about it, but they know it's there."
Dr. Lutz said many Adderall prescriptions are for legitimate use, but he believes many students whether their prescribed the drug or not often ignore the side effects.
"The very rare and more worrisome ones such as Tourrette Syndrome, seizures, chest pain, severe depression and hallucinations," Dr. Lutz said.
"When you abuse these medications, it can lead to progressive and early drug induced Parkinson-ism, which is just one more disease should you survive the cardiovascular complications past 40-years-old," Neurologist Don Gervais said.
Many people are prescribed the drug legitimately then turn around and sell the drug for profit, according to Dr. Gervais. The effects on the brain are similar to taking meth.
"I've had people overdose on these medications and had inter-cranial hemorrhages, strokes from blood vessel problems, dependency, sleep disorders, cardiac disrhythmias," Dr. Gervais said. "These are not to be used lightly or without supervision, and my opinion but this is just my opinion, I believe they tend to be overused and used too quickly."
Dr. Gervais also said the older someone is and still uses Adderall or other amphetamines the greater the risk of developing heart disease or drug induced Parkinson's disease.