November 29, 2021

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Binghamton University student research group examines Adderall abuse

Adderall, the brand name for dextroamphetamine-amphetamine, is typically prescribed for conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy. Often referred to as a Adderall, the brand name for dextroamphetamine-amphetamine, is typically prescribed for conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy. Often referred to as a
Adderall, the brand name for dextroamphetamine-amphetamine, is typically prescribed for conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy. Often referred to as a "study drug," Adderall is frequently used by students and young professionals to increase their focus and productivity. Side effects from Adderall use include sleep disruption; increased risk for mental health problems including depression, bipolar disorder and aggressive or hostile behavior; and cardiovascular risks such as stroke and high blood pressure.

College students misuse study drugs like Adderall on campuses across the nation. In fall 2018, a group of Binghamton University students and their instructor decided to address that.

The Binghamton Student Managed Adderall Research Team (B-SMART) is investigating the harmful effects of Adderall abuse on college students. Founder Lina Begdache, PhD ’08, assistant professor of health and wellness studies, said B-SMART came about as a means of spreading awareness.

“I always talk about Adderall in my classes because it’s a problem on college campuses and students don’t know about the major issues it can cause for the brain,” she said. “Because the human brain continues to mature until the late 20s, when students take substances like Adderall it can actually change how their brain works.”

After one of her students expressed a desire for a campus resource to spread awareness about Adderall misuse, Begdache suggested the students form a research team. Several students joined together to write a research proposal and gained approval from the University’s Institutional Review Board. In fall 2018, B-SMART was born.

Rebecca Koltun, a senior chemistry major who has been a part of B-SMART since fall 2019, learned about the group through her pre-medical fraternity Phi Delta Epsilon.

“I really wanted research experience but I am not that interested in wet lab research, especially when it focuses on something I can’t relate to,” she said. “This research is extremely relevant to anyone in college because study drugs are used all around us.”

Dennis Cregin, a junior integrative neuroscience major, also joined B-SMART in fall 2019 after hearing about it at a Medical Roots Project club meeting.

“I decided to apply to B-SMART because I’m interested not only in the neuroscience aspect of drug use and use patterns on campus, but I’m also particularly interested in trying to alleviate the problems caused by this use through education,” he said.

While a part of B-SMART, Koltun helped create a research poster for Binghamton Research Days 2020 as well as presentations detailing the negative, cyclical effects of misusing Adderall. As she works to coordinate group presentations and educate students, Koltun hopes to combat Adderall abuse.

“I hope that I can use what I have learned to reach students who misuse or are considering misusing study drugs,” she said. “I hope that this research can serve as a deterrent for those students.”

As a contributor to the research poster and spearhead of the group’s research manuscript, Cregin hopes to raise awareness of B-SMART findings. He also wants students to know that time management and using campus resources are far more effective and safer than abusing Adderall.

“I want students to learn that our survey data shows that unprescribed use of ADHD medications is correlated with a low GPA, a myriad of mental health side effects and even physical health side effects,” he said. “Planning out assignments, utilizing the University’s Tutoring Center, getting a good night’s sleep, eating healthy and drinking lots of water are much better methods for increasing your ’brain power’ than any pharmacological agent, especially ADHD medications.”

Begdache said the next steps for B-SMART include training its fourth generation of interns to become the next Adderall researchers, expanding its social media outreach and continuing to publish research.

“We published one manuscript with Alpenglow and there’s a second manuscript being written to publish with another journal,” she said. “The students will also be giving a TED talk in March. So, we’re doing a lot to increase awareness, but I don’t think people know much about the group yet.”

Applications for B-SMART are accepted from undergraduate students in the spring. Applications are reviewed and researchers are selected based on their interests and academic standing. Students interested in applying for the 2021-22 academic year should email Lina Begdache at lina@binghamton.edu.

Posted in: Health, Campus News, Decker