Taylor Evans, a junior education major, started school at Washburn in Spring 2012. After visiting a psychiatrist, she was prescribed Adderall and spent the next two and a half years battling a severe addiction.
Adderall is a stimulant that is most commonly prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is among the group of legally-approved drugs classified as having the highest potential for dependence or abuse. It is referred to in slang as a “study drug,” and its misuse on college campuses is twice as high as the usage by those who are not in college full-time.
Evans knew she didn’t have ADHD, but, like many other college students and young adults, wanted to take Adderall anyway. Between being a student and a veteran, accessibility was not an issue. When taking the drug, she could stay up later and work longer hours. Adderall did end up having an effect on her productivity, but it was not the outcome she had anticipated.
Evans compared taking Adderall to “being superwoman.” She could get all of her homework done, write papers longer than the required length, clean her house until it was spotless and still pick up extra hours at work. No one knew she was staying up three days in a row to get all of her work done.
“People thought I was being good. Really, I was hiding everything,” Evans said.
As time went on, Evans started accomplishing less at school and work and shifted her main focus to finding more pills. This disrupted both her studies and home life.
“I would make excuses not to go to class,” Evans said.
Eventually, Dr. Janet Sharp, Evan’s mathematics professor, noticed that something was wrong. For a student that was grasping the material so well, the behavior that tipped her off was Evan’s frequent inability to attend class.
“Even though the capacity for her knowledge was there, the behaviors that resulted ended up being impossible to overcome,” Sharp said. “She was clearly grasping concepts. She very often had the right answer. The biggest time that her behavior seemed very off to me, ironically, was when she wasn’t there.”
It wasn’t long before the cons of using the medication outweighed the pros. Evans was rarely seen in class at all, and the less she was in class, the less she was able to perform. She described herself as jittery and paranoid, and constantly battling panic attacks.
“You can’t even sit down to complete a task, so in reality, it’s even harder to get stuff done,” said Evans.
By her sophomore year, Evans had two prescriptions of her own, and three from people she knew. She was taking more than 10 times the highest prescribed dosage of amphetamines per day and isolated herself from friends and family. Even though she wanted help, her addiction overcame her willpower to stop depending upon the drug.
By the time Evans sought out help on her own, the addiction was out of her control. Evans wrote about her feelings of helplessness and confusion while using the drug in a confession story written to her parents.
“Nobody can convince her to quit — not even herself,” Evans wrote.
The first time she went to treatment, Evan’s father called her psychiatrists and told them them to stop giving her the prescriptions. When she left Valley Hope treatment facility, she was able to refill her prescriptions anyway, because the offices did not document her files correctly.
After being in and out of clinics, psychiatric wards and rehabilitation centers, she was admitted into Palm Tree Recovery in Boynton Beach, Florida in fall 2014. This was the beginning of a long path to recovery.
Washburn provides resources for individuals that have questions about their mental health and wellness. Crystal Leming, a counselor at Washburn, said although Washburn University Counseling Services does not offer treatment for addiction, they work closely with the community to find places for individuals to go to for assessment and treatment.
“Once people are diagnosed [with ADHD], we are happy to either work with behavioral stuff, manage medication through Student Health or help them get accommodations through Student Services,” Leming said.
Accommodations [for ADHD] from Student Services include extended homework deadlines and test times, separate rooms with less distractions for test-taking and other strategies to help students perform at their best.
“[Misusing] any drug, even prescription medications, is a risk for addiction and increased rates of abuse in other medications. The potential is there, every single time,” Leming said.
Five months clean, Evans decided to share her story so that her experience may save someone else from making the same mistake.
“I think that students need to be aware of the serious side effects [Adderall] can cause. It is extremely important to bring awareness to the risks of this prescription pill.”