Adderall abuse in schools: Franklin High School officials want to stop misuse of ADHD medication

Expulsion hearings, criminal charges pending

FRANKLIN, Ohio -- Several Franklin High School students face possible disciplinary action after administrators say they were abusing a prescription drug commonly believed to help students focus during classes.

Expulsion hearings are scheduled in the next few days for three students who either bought or sold Adderall on school property, according to school administrators.

Police say criminal charges are pending.

While some abusers of the drug refer to it as a “smart pill” because of its perceived ability to help a person focus, the medication designed to help people who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can pose a health risk.

According to the website DrugAbuse.com , there are several possible effects to the drug that are heightened when the medication is not taken as prescribed. Some severe effects include:

  • Pounding or fast heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Seizures
  • Weakness in the arms or legs
  • Numbness of arms or legs
  • Dizziness
  • Slow or difficult speech
  • Chest pain
  • Hoarseness
  • Verbal or motor tics
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Changes in vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Mania
  • Itching
  • Swelling (in the case of overdose or allergic reaction)
  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Blistering or peeling skin

Those risks were realized at Franklin High School on Sept. 20 when a student went to the school nurse and began to vomit. It was determined the girl suffered an allergic reaction to Adderall, a drug for which she did not have a prescription.

While the student was ultimately OK, the incident opened the eyes of school administrators, who brought in local law enforcement to help investigate.

Police say they talked to the girl about where she got the pills and other people who were involved.

While the investigation is ongoing, Franklin City Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Sander said school officials don’t have any information that Adderall abuse has been an ongoing problem among students in the district.

"This is the first I know that it happened in Franklin schools,” Sander said. “It’s the first school district I've been associated with in my 30 years where I'm aware that it has occurred."

While Sander doesn’t have personal experience battling abuse of the drug in his schools, administrators and physicians across the country are facing a different reality.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says the number of emergency room visits related to stimulants like Adderall among 18- to 34-year-olds increased to 23,000 in 2011 - up 400 percent from 5,600 in 2005.

The organization says Adderall and Ritalin are among the most commonly misused and abused prescription drugs.

While it’s difficult to tell how many students are using the drug at Franklin High School, the students who spoke to 9 On Your Side reporter Jay Warren seem to believe it’s more than the three people school officials will haul into a disciplinary hearing next week.

James Haines, a junior, said he has not encountered anyone who has illegally used or abused the drug. But he believes the fact students were caught with Adderall indicates there’s a problem.

"I don't know many personally but the fact that they're selling it (shows) there's more than three or the few that got arrested," he said.

Jeremy Downing guesses about 75 classmates use the ADHD medication to help them focus during classes, manage their time and generally cope with the rigors of high school life.

“(They use it) just to get high, feel good, you know, get through school easier."

Pharmacist Carla Dlugos says using the drug recreationally can be a serious health risk.

"It does increase blood pressure, it does increase your heart rate, and that would actually be a concern for someone who's taking it without a prescription,” said Dlugos, who works in Springboro.

She said people who are prescribed the drug are checked out for possible health risks. Doctors take a detailed family medical background to look for a history of cardiovascular disease.

“If someone (were to) take it who has an underlying cardiac condition, it could actually cause sudden cardiac death," Dlugos said.

The health risk is why Sander is asking students to speak up.

"Silence is acceptance. If you know this is going on in your school and you don't do anything about it, you accept that it's ok and it’s not,” he said. “We have to have students who understand selling and possession of drugs at school is not OK."

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You can find out more information about Adderall abuse and ways to fight it at drugabuse.com/library/adderall-abuse/

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