Wednesday, December 18, 2013

CU-Boulder launching #AdderallProblems campaign to curb prescription drug use at finals week

CU Boulder has a new campaign that calls attention to the problems with misusing Adderall in a humorous way. What are your thoughts? Does the humor make light of and attract misuse? Or does it truly prevent misuse among the intended audience?

From the Boulder Daily Camera
Campaign juxtaposes expectations, reality, for students seeking study help

As finals week approaches at colleges across the country, so too does the temptation for students to abuse prescription drugs to stay alert while studying for tests and writing papers late into the night.

Two students in the University of Colorado's community health are hoping to start a conversation about abusing drugs like Adderall, a stimulant often used to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Some students, including those at CU, describe taking Adderall because they think it will give them the energy to study or write all night long. But often, Adderall users find that instead of studying or writing, they have so much energy that focusing becomes impossible. They end up spending the night cleaning, organizing or forgetting to eat or drink.

CU community health student coordinators and seniors Arianna Efram and Victoria Hare plan to use the realities of Adderall in a new campaign they'll launch as CU students head into finals week, which begins today.

The campaign, which is written and displayed in the style of Someecards, a free online e-card service that's also an Internet meme. Efram and Hare searched the hashtag #AdderallProblems on Twitter to find real-world examples of how taking Adderall without a prescription led to some unexpected consequences.

They'll place the funny #AdderallProblems cards on tables at the University Memorial Center to get students thinking about what taking Adderall is really like. Each of the cards features the hashtag #AdderallProblems next to an exasperated person, presumably a student.

One of the cards reads "I CAN'T STOP STARING." Another reads "Stayed up all night studying, slept through the test." Another says "Yelling at yourself to stop talking to yourself."

While students expect to focus on schoolwork all night long, that's not what really happens, said Kathryn Dailey, CU community health peer development and implementation coordinator. Dailey said the community health office is hoping students who already abuse Adderall realize that the problems associated with the drug aren't unique to them; they're the norm.

Dailey said she hopes the campaign will encourage students who are considering abusing Adderall to think twice about the actual outcomes of abusing the drug.

"The premise of this project was looking at what people are expecting they're going to experience when taking Adderall and other stimulants, versus what is the reality of their experience," Dailey said. "You think you're going to take an Adderall and study all night but instead you end up cleaning your house three times. (We're) helping people start to realize the difference between expectation and reality to bring up that cognitive dissonance so they can potentially reconsider their behavior."

Though CU doesn't track how many students use Adderall without a prescription, Dailey said there's more buzz about Adderall around finals week. Regardless of whether people are using it at CU, they're talking about it, especially at the end of the semester.

As students, Efram and Hare hear about Adderall on Facebook, from their friends and in their social circles. Around stressful times during the semester, like finals week, Adderall abuse seems to be everywhere, they said.

"People are always talking about Adderall here on campus so it's nice to be able to tackle something that seems really relevant," Hare said.

On the CU Boulder Confessions Facebook page, a place where CU students anonymously confess thoughts, worries or ideas, one person wrote: "I took Adderall for the first time today and realized that it not only makes me sweat aggressively, but also makes my pee green. Finals week is gonna get weird."

The community health campaign is intentionally funny and lighthearted, Dailey said, because research shows that campaigns based on fear or other negative emotions often don't work.

"One of the things we've found in our programming is when you make things funny, it becomes more approachable and we can start a conversation," Dailey said.