West Virginia University students recently finished up their final examinations for the school year. During this time period, of course, many stay up long hours to cram to prepare for the tests. And according to West Virginia University Journalism students who performed a research study, many are reaching for prescription drugs to prepare, without a prescription.
The New Kid on the Block
It’s called Adderall. It’s a prescription drug used to treat attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, and narcolepsy. According to the Food and Drug Administration, its side effects are stomach ache, head aches and decreased appetite. Although those may sound like minor symptoms, Adderrall is an amphetamine, which according to the FDA has a high potential for abuse. The FDA says people with heart problems or who struggle with depression can experience severe problems from abusing this drug, even death.
And Adderall is getting into the hands of college students, who are abusing the drug, according to a story compiled by West Virginia University Journalism students.
As part of a new experimental storytelling class, some of these Journalism students worked with a representative of the Wall Street Journal to complete an intensive web project to investigate the story. Students talked to their peers about why and how college students are getting their hands on the drug. Bryan Bumgardner is one of the student reporters who covered this story for the class.
"When we talk about study aid abuse, you see on the national level, all kinds of reporting on this. But a lot of these stories see this issue from the outside. What we had here at WVU is that we are students. We see these people everyday, we are inside this subculture and we can see this perspective," said Bumgardner.
The students created an interactive web site with facts and video and audio interviews collected from students and medical professionals. Through their interviews, the students learned it’s not just students at WVU who are using Adderall to get their high.
"The common denominator was, oh it’s not harmful. People treat like this like it’s a scheduled substance. People would see this thing as a study aid. People would talk like popping Adderall is the same as drinking a Red Bull," said Bumgardner.
Basham and Bumgardner say it was surprising to receive so much openness from people describing their Adderall use.
"We were really surprised. We went into this project knowing that we were going to have anonymous sources; we asked people if they knew someone who used Adderall on camera. They said we use it, and they would tell us their experience," said Kristen Basham.
Lack of Awareness
The students also say the university itself isn’t completely aware of the issue.
"There’s a lot of alcohol awareness but there’s not a lot of drug education. Especially the study aid drugs. There isn’t a lot of prevention," said Basham.
Reaction to this piece has been very positive, according to the two students. They are showing the web site to faculty at the university, and students. They hope this story creates a more open dialogue between university officials, students, and others who are trying to stop widespread abuse of the drug.