Doctor's Orders: A New Prescription for ADHD Medication Abuse

Article excerpt

"Th[is] stuff [Adderall] is like an ... anabolic steroid." --Mitch (1)

In a society that never stops, discovering a quick fix grants one an immeasurable competitive edge whether it be in the academic or professional arena. The world of athletics has grappled with the use of anabolic steroids for years, finally implementing anti-doping laws (2) and strict guidelines for athletes. However, in the academic setting, a similar problem has arisen that cannot be solved by random drug testing or other anti-doping mechanisms. Since the genesis of ADD/ADHD in the early 1980s, affected individuals have been able to procure medications that enhance cognitive capabilities: the ability to focus, concentrate, and retain information. Those truly suffering from ADHD reap the benefits of these medications while many non-affected people now acquire the drug for themselves to get ahead, primarily within academic settings. The prevalence of Adderall and the ease with which individuals, particularly students, can obtain it, through a diagnosis or illegal procurement, is alarming and presents ethical issues. Various solutions, including random drug testing, heightened disciplinary procedures, and education programs, have been proposed but do not attack the crux of the issue. Instead, this Note posits that to stem the abuse of ADHD medications in academic settings, the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) should be amended to include ADHD as a specific learning disability and to develop a mandatory standardized diagnostic test that must be performed prior to the diagnosis of ADHD and the prescribing of Adderall that focuses on the adverse educational effect the disorder has on individuals. Currently, individuals can obtain an ADHD diagnosis and an Adderall prescription without much effort by meeting highly subjective criteria. By addressing the high rate of ADHD diagnoses and the ease with which this Schedule II Controlled Substance is obtained, only those requiring the drug will be able to obtain it and those seeking a competitive edge will be out of luck. This Note will proceed in five parts. Part I will identify background information on ADHD including diagnosis and treatment. Part II will address the current problem surrounding ADHD medications, specifically Adderall, focusing on the misuse/abuse on college and university campuses. Part III will discuss the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) as well as [section] 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the services provided to students with disabilities and/or ADHD. Part IV will propose a two-pronged solution to the overabundance of Adderall and the subsequent misuse by students. By amending IDEA and implementing a standard diagnostic test for ADHD, access to Adderall will decrease and the potential for abuse will be greatly lowered. Finally, Part V will address the implications of this alteration as well as aspects that cannot be addressed by a legislative mandate. The inclusion of ADHD as an enumerated learning disability under IDEA combined with a standardized identification and diagnosis procedure will allow individuals suffering from ADHD to receive appropriate treatment while preventing the illegal use of Adderall by those seeking an academic boost.

I. THE ADHD EPIDEMIC: DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT

"The drugging of children for A.D.H.D. has become an epidemic." (3)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders diagnosed in children that can persist into adulthood. (4) Since its induction into the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IIIR (DSM-IIIR) in 1987 and its replacement of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in the DSM-IV in 1994, ADHD diagnoses have risen an average 5.5% per year from 2003-2007. (5) ADHD manifests in various types dependent upon the primary behavior exhibited. (6) Currently, about 3-7% of school-age children suffer from ADHD; however, since 2007, about 9. …