Updated: Monday, 10 May 2010, 11:47 PM EDT
Published : Monday, 10 May 2010, 10:34 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Tiffany Franks is finishing the requirements for high school graduation at Hope Academy. She's sober now but her journey has been a rough one.
She tried the prescription drug Xanax in junior high and quickly graduated to Adderall by the time she was a ninth grader at Brown County High School.
Adderall, an amphetamine usually prescribed for students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, became a drug of choice to pass the ISTEP test. Tiffany got a “pass plus” on the exam, which is relatively high score.
Tiffany isn't alone. More kids in Indiana are getting their hands on Adderall illegally.
The Indiana Prevention Resource Center does yearly surveys of drugs use in sixth through 12th graders. It found in 2009, 6.9 percent of 6th graders admitted they had tried Adderall or Ritalin during their lifetime without a prescription. Those numbers grew to nearly 12 percent by the time students are in the 12th grade.
The number jumps even more as students enter college. A University of Kentucky study revealed that while four percent of students had prescriptions for the drugs, 34 percent had used Adderall.
That was the case for one sorority member we interviewed. The student, who asked not to be identified, said several of her friends had come into tests saying they, "felt really good."
They told her they had been up all night studying, popping a few Adderall and then went on to take an exam.
Dr. Aaron Whiteman, a psychiatrist and Medical Director at Fairbanks Hospital, says that kind of abuse of Adderall is giving those students an unfair advantage.
"I compare it to steroids in sports," says Dr. Whiteman, "People who are using drugs to enhance their cognitive performance are cheating essentially just like the professional sports players."
He went on to say, "I do think it does alter scores and the curves that students might be experiencing. If there's 20, 30, 50 percent of kids taking any one test on this drug, I think it's going to affect things."
A psychiatrist at the IU Medical School goes even further.
"Not only does it push the brain," says Dr. Anantha Shekhar, "It also pushes the heart very hard."
Side effects include mental illness, addiction and heart problems.
Tiffany Franks says Adderall might have helped her pass the ISTEP, but it was also a gateway drug. She went on to cocaine and methamphetamine later.
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