Adderall (Photo: CBS News)
December 2, 2013 (USA Today) -Twitter, to most students, is a
140-character social media platform where they can freely express the
stresses of college, frustrations and opinions.
Yet Twitter also has become a platform for studying the abuse of pharmaceutical drugs among those students.
A recent study performed at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah,
examined the tweets of college students across the USA for mentions of
the pharmaceutical drug Adderall.
The drug has become increasingly more common among students looking to
increase concentration and production during "crunch times" such as
midterms and finals week.
A total of 213,633 tweets from 132,099 unique users mentioned the drug
between November 2011 and May 2012. Mentions peaked during final exam
periods nationwide and were higher in the Northeast and southern regions
of the USA.
With 26% of Internet users between 18-29 on Twitter, researchers from
Brigham Young considered the social media platform to be a
representative population sample of college students. After narrowing
these users to those actually in college, researchers began sifting
through thousands of tweets.
They found tweets such as: "I need Adderall. Can't focus on studying or
finishing these reviews", "Does anyone have Adderall? #desperate" and
"We would all graduate with a 4.0 if Adderall was sold over the
According to the University of Southern California Science Review, 14%
of students said they have been asked to sell, trade or distribute
Adderall as of 2012. In a survey, 95% of students said they "were able
to obtain a false diagnosis of ADHD by faking symptoms on one of the
most commonly used self-reporting scales."
A staggering 40% of teenagers think abusing prescription drugs is acceptable because they're "safer" than recreational drugs.
Will Berry, a freshman at the University of Louisville, was diagnosed
with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in middle school. He is
trying to stop using Ritalin - a drug similar to Adderall - and
considers it annoying when students claim they need the drug to get by
"I would say they're just looking for an easy way out because they want
to waste their time and still do well on school work," Berry says. "I
would rather not have ADHD at all and not take medication, but I didn't
get to choose."
The Brigham Young study found that tweets about Adderall peak on
Wednesdays and hit lows on Saturdays. Adderall mentions peaked on Dec.
13, 2011 with 2,813 mentions, and then dropped to 292 on Dec. 25, 2011.
Twitter mentions of Adderall also showed up alongside those mentioning
sleep deprivation, loss of appetite, alcohol and stimulant use, as well
as mentions of several other recreational drugs.
Former Murray State University student Aaron Bugg describes witnessing
his friends taking a similar drug, Vyvanse. One friend was prescribed
the pharmaceutical and the other was not, but they both showed similar
side effects when they took it along with recreational drugs in social
"They both became alarmingly anxious when they drank and smoked
(marijuana) with it," Bugg says. "Thankfully they both stopped taking
According to the Coalition Against Drug Abuse, Adderall and similar
drugs can counteract some signs of excess alcohol consumption, making it
easier to succumb to alcohol poisoning.
The coalition also warns that Adderall abuse could eventually lead to a
dependence on it, saying someone could become stressed if they can't get
access to the drug.
Shira Kipnees, a junior at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster,
Pa., also was diagnosed at a young age with ADHD and takes the
pharmaceutical Concerta. Kipnees doesn't tell classmates she has ADHD
because she knows they might ask to use her medication. Kipnees' doctor
advised her to keep her pills safe from students who may try to steal
She finds abuse of the drug offensive and ignorant.
"I find it incredibly insulting if you don't have a disorder like this
and you talk about how you need the medication," Kipnees says. "Even if
students don't show they have it, you never know. You would feel bad if
you had depression or some type of disability and students joked about
how much they needed the medication you rely on."