College finals means long nights of studying, intense exams, and growing pressure on students. College students have always turned to study aids to help during this stress-filled period. Increasingly, they are turning to the prescription drug Adderall for the extra boost they feel the need. And it’s more common (and more dangerous) than you might think.

Initially marketed as a prescription to combat attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, Adderall is rapidly gaining acceptance in American colleges.

Adderall is a stimulant that contains amphetamine, and it is misused for students who want to focus on their studies without a need for sleep. Additionally, students are using the drug for weight loss since the side effects include a loss of appetite.

However, those students who use this drug in colleges typically are abusing it and taking it uncontrolled and without a prescription. This can lead to severe problems, including addiction to the drug.

Uncovering Adderall Abuse with Twitter

Social media isn’t just for sharing the latest cat meme. Scientists have used Twitter and Facebook to examine drug abuse, particularly Adderall abuse, trends. By looking for tweets that mention the drug or a slang term for the drug, researchers were able to map use and popularity of Adderall.

According to Twitter, college students are more likely to take Adderall during final exams. In a recent study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, during the time of final exams, Adderall is tweeted about an average of 930 times per day.

Also the peak days of Adderall use are during the middle of the week rather than on weekends, which indicate that the drug is not a party drug but instead used for academic performance.

Carl Hanson, Ph.D., who is a professor of health science at BYU and the lead researcher for the study states: “Adderall is the most commonly abused prescription stimulant among college students.”

Adderall at Florida Colleges

Adderall is widely used in many colleges, and Florida schools are no exception. The study found widespread mentions of Adderall across the state – with especially high numbers in the panhandle region. It’s no surprise – the intense pressure of university and the large number of students in Florida colleges helps drive up the numbers.

Do Parents Know?

Parents may think they would know if their child was using Adderall to help study. The truth is, they don’t.

While students are opening up about their use of Adderall on social media, parents are unaware of the issue.

For instance the National Poll on Children’s Health notes that only 1 percent of teens are using Adderall according to their parents.

However, Monitoring the Future reveals that 12 percent of seniors and 10 percent of sophomores in high school admit to using a stimulant or amphetamine that was not prescribed to them from a doctor.

Consequences of long term Adderall abuse include abnormal heart rhythms and acute exhaustion. If a teen becomes addicted to the psycho-addictive substance, then they can experience confusion as well as psychosis during withdrawal.

As the first line of defense, parents need to become more aware of the abuse and dangers of Adderall. Otherwise, students will continue to abuse this drug and therefore risk their health in the process.