College Can Be Rough...If You've Got ADHD


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A recent report published in U.S. News has shown that students with ADHD might have a harder time transitioning into college from high school. Why is this? College is much different than high school. College has more boundaries, experiences, and classes to understand. Students who are fresh out of high school who have ADHD might find that college is a bit more difficult than they had ever imagined. 

Kristy Morgan, a recent Kansas State doctoral graduate, conducted interviews with eight different students and said, "The ones who are going to do best are those who come to college prepared, who are aware of their weaknesses and have some strategies for compensating." 

However, when students go off to college, a bit of a pattern emerges. Students with ADHD often found that their studying skills weren't exactly as strong as they hoped they'd be, especially with the added rigor of college-level classes. They also found it difficult to manage their time properly, as opposed to the rigidity that they had in their high schools. College can also be immensely distracting, especially to those who who need instant gratification or have hyperactive tendencies. Students with ADHD were also underutilizing campus resources designed to help them make the best of their college careers, some out of shame, and others out of lack of knowledge. 

After reading this article, it made more sense to me as to why I struggled a bit my first semester of college, even while being on Strattera (a non-stimulant, as opposed to Ritalin and Adderall), and why my brother, who also has ADHD, is struggling as well in his first semester right now. I'm on my fourth year of figuring out this college thing, and while I haven't been able to shake my procrastination skills, I've at least learned that having ADHD in college is a bit of a struggle, especially since I am the type of person who is a bit hyperactive and easily distracted. Of course, this led me to some questions: Why do students without ADHD feel the need to take Ritalin or Adderall to help them concentrate or do better in their studies? Why is it that it seems like those two drugs are the common study drugs that people use, instead of the drug I'm on? Most importantly, why are people with ADHD so afraid of the stigma?
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2 Comments

Meghin, this post is very interesting. I've also been having a difficult transition and always find myself procrastinating everything. College definitely is very different from high school. But the other day I called my brother and told him I think I might have ADHD and he laughed and said that wasn't even a real disease. That's actually not the first time I've heard that. There seems to be a lot of controversy as to if ADHD even exists. I found this article that agrees that ADHD is actually real and that only, "5 to 8 percent of children meet criteria for a diagnosis of A.D.H.D., and 4 to 5 percent of adults." Here's the rest of the article if you're interested!

http://consults.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/15/when-the-diagnosis-is-a-d-h-d/

As far as I know, I'm not affected by ADHD but I am having an extremely difficult time as a freshman with all of the same things you struggled with. Time management, adjusting to the schedule and workload, and being overwhelmed by all of the opportunities continue to stress me out each day of this first semester. It's not just people who are affected by ADHD that deal with these first year college struggles, so to answer your question I think that is what tempts unaffected students to take drugs such as adderall - to settle down their generally overworked minds.

What I did discover in looking up further information on Adderall is that non-ADHD users should NOT be using it. It can have serious negative health effects. According to the LiveStrong website, the amphetamine and extroamphetamine found in adderall can easily create addiction in non-ADHD users. According to another article, Adderall doesn't have the same calming effect it has on ADHD-affected users as it does on non-affected. It usually just allows non-affected users to stay up longer and give them an amphetamine-based energy surge (one that ADHD sufferers do not experience). The reason for this is because ADHD users have a natural substance imbalance in the brain that the combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine in Adderall can effectively change. I'd assume because people without ADHD don't have this, the combination of these drugs has a different, more dangerous effect.

As for your question about why Strattera (a non-stimulant) is less popular than drugs like Adderall (a stimulant), it was hard to find a direct answer. From various blog sites and forums, the general consensus seems to be that Strattera is just a fairly-newer, less researched drug...that seems to have less-positive effects than Adderall. As for the science of stimulant vs. non-stimulant drug...it seems unsure as to why the stimulants are more talked-about.

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