Luke Schneider

For six months leading up to his breakdown, Luke Schneider had been abusing Adderall. In a two-month period, he went 12 nights without getting any sleep at all.

His “episode,” as he called it, postponed his graduation. Just before finals in April 2011, he had to drop all five of his classes to deal with his mental health.

Luke Schneider (right) and his brother walk down the street in downtown Fredericksburg

Known on some campuses as the “smart drug,” Adderall is a common medication that helps with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a psychostimulant drug that works by boosting dopamine levels in the brain, which thereby helps students focus. Additionally, Adderall is a class 2 controlled substance, meaning it ranks among the most addictive of medical drugs.

The abuse of Adderall (taking the pill without necessary cause or taking more than prescribed) has increased from 6.3 percent in 2006 to 8.3 percent in 2011 in full-time students (ages 18-25), according to a study from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Schneider had a prescription for Adderall to help with his ADHD, but continually took more than he needed. He became addicted to its effects, and would routinely pair the Adderall with majiuana.

“Instead of 40 mg a day, I started taking 60. It kept my brain active so I could focus on all my work,” said Schneider.

Adderall may be one reason why CAPS visits increases during midterms. Students take the drug to focus better on studying for tests and writing papers.

“Typically we see a spike at midterms,” said Dr. Nicole Surething, CAPS Psychologist. “because of the academics. Stress and anxiety are building up.”

Adderall Usage
Courtesy of 2006-2007 SAMHSA National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)

The side effects were destructive to Schneider’s health. As the semester went on, he started to feel paranoid and began to hallucinate. At one point, he stayed up for three days straight.

After that three-day period, right before finals, Schneider’s mental health deteriorated quickly.

“On the third day without sleep I couldn’t talk at all. I couldn’t explain to my dad on the phone how I was feeling. That’s when he drove down to Fredericksburg.”

His family got him to the hospital. He participated in a week-long outpatient program, where doctors never diagnosed the episode as a specific mental health disorder. For a year afterward, Schneider went to a handful of doctors and psychiatrists, none of whom he claimed were very helpful.

Though the affects of Adderol are discussed on college campuses, it’s something else to be in close proximity to an episode.

“It was really eye-opening to see what it [substance abuse] can actually do to people,” said Ian Berry, Schneider’s long-time friend. “I was concerned.”

Schneider has been Adderall and Marijuana free ever since, but he has to control himself actively from taking Adderall again.

He copes with this by “being as healthy as possible” because it makes him feel good, he said. He turned his energies to running and eating well.

“In the end I just found that being as healthy as I can be is the best way to deal with it. It’s a struggle from day-to-day, but I’m managing.”

By Charlotte Rodina