High Scores

Students are using drugs illegally not to party down, but to get better marks on exams

The late-night excursions made her a walking zombie during her days at school, where she slept through all her courses and opened her eyes only to navigate her way from class to class. She developed black moons under her eyes that didn't go away, no matter how much she crashed on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. She started getting paranoid and thought her teachers were looking at her in the hallways for an unusually long period of time. Her Helios friends told her they were worried about her, that it wasn't good to be so dependent on something. One night, when Laura ran out of her Adderall, she freaked out so badly about crashing the next morning that a girlfriend at Helios gave her an "all-natural" diet pill to help her stay awake.

So about a month ago she quit the Adderall abruptly, and for days she shook furiously from the withdrawal effects, so much so that she says she'd have to lie down on the back porch at Helios just to chill out. She tried to sneak out while not on the drug, but she got too sleepy. It didn't matter anyway -- her brother and his wife had caught her leaving the house one too many times, and they told Laura she had to leave Montrose and move in with her grandfather out by Highway 6.

"They kicked me out of the house," she says. "They were like, 'We're tired of dealing with you. You don't trust us and you don't respect us.' "

In only one evening, a teenage boy constructed an entire bridge made out of spaghetti for physics class while he was on Adderall.
David Hollenbach
In only one evening, a teenage boy constructed an entire bridge made out of spaghetti for physics class while he was on Adderall.
ADD expert Jay Tarnow says it's rare for kids with the disorder to abuse their medications.
Daniel Kramer
ADD expert Jay Tarnow says it's rare for kids with the disorder to abuse their medications.

Laura doesn't have a driver's license, which she considers to be a good thing. Since she can't travel into the city, she doesn't sneak out anymore.

"If I were still there, I would still sneak out," she says matter-of-factly, "because I have no self-control."

Her sensibility is a strange mix of an old person's world-weariness and the immortal naïveté of a teenager. She admits she feels a definite sense of relief that she isn't on Adderall every day anymore. But then a moment later she's guessing she would probably take the drug once more if she had the opportunity.

This time, however, things would be different.

"I might take it again," she says. "But if I did, I would be really aware of how much I was taking, and I would make sure I didn't get dependent on it again."

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