Adderall Abuse Alters Brain, Claims a Young Life


Students Need to Know the Dangers

"Doctors prescribe too easily, colleges don't take misbehavior seriously, parents are in denial and young adults need to be better educated," she said.

She said students easily fool doctors because they can find symptoms of ADHD on the Internet. "When a college kid comes in and repeats these things a little too well, a red flag should go up," Schultz added.

There also needs to be better follow-up. "You don't write a prescription and then not see a patient for a year, especially when what we are seeing is so widespread."

And students need to know the dangers, as well. "They are playing with fire," said Schultz. "We don't paint a scary enough picture for our kids, a real picture of addiction."

Kyle's mood swings, subtle personality changes and eventual depression were "only trackable in hindsight," said his mother, a 54-year-old who works in commercial communications.

Over the summer, Kyle casually mentioned that he had used the drug for studying, and at one point, his mother saw a prescription bottle in his backpack.

"I truly fault myself," she said. "I didn't do any homework on it like a parent should. But he had the green light from a doctor."

There were other ominous signs -- he was a little more aggressive, not as "cool and easy," and bit "edgy."

"There was a distinct change in his manner and confidence and overall health," said his father, a 56-year-old lawyer. "And when we look back to that summer, we now know it was the tip of the iceberg."

Still, Kyle was "firing on all cylinders," surfing, holding a summer job as a waiter and securing an internship at a prestigious investment bank in New York City. And from all appearances, he was doing well when he returned to Vanderbilt in the fall, "knocking it out of the park again with a 3.8," said his father.

"From the summer of 2009 until his death [Kyle] was seemingly happy, outgoing, physically fit and active, achieving at a very high level at school, rush chairman at the fraternity, out and about, dating and very, very normal," he said. "That's the thing about Adderall. It's so deceptive."

But later, they learned that Kyle had sought help from a college counselor and expressed concerns about social anxiety. In writings they found after his death, Kyle wished he could enjoy people the way he had before.

That, too seemed to pass, and Kyle left for his junior semester abroad in Barcelona in January.

Kyle later told his therapist he had stopped Adderall in February. "He went cold turkey and that was a really rough stretch," said Andrea Craig.

But friends in Barcelona said Kyle was social and upbeat, going to classes.

"He had down periods, we all do, but he wasn't sitting at home in a dark room," said his father. "His character strength was part of his downfall, because he could continue to tell us and show us, he was fine."

In one phone call home Kyle seemed depressed, but when his parents visited him in April, he was "back on top." They talked about his mood swings and suggested he see a therapist when he returned home in 10 days.

Parents Kept Out of the Loop

Kyle had only two sessions with a therapist, and was told to stay away from alcohol, but his parents never heard that warning.

On May 21, the night of his sister's senior prom, Kyle joined a flock of friends home from college at the local bars. He talked with friends about his upcoming internship, dancing, buying celebratory drinks.

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