Stressed-out college students are no longer reaching for the soda or coffee during study sessions. Many have begun to look for supplements and other drugs that can help increase focus and reduce anxiety, but some experts question the effectiveness and safety of certain drugs.
One of these new drugs is “ADDTabz,” a substitute for Adderall, a stimulant usually prescribed to patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or narcolepsy. Although Gentech Pharmaceutical, the manufacturer of ADDTabz, emphasizes that the drug is not designed to treat ADHD or narcolepsy, but it can help with similar symptoms by improving memory, cognitive abilities and lowering anxiety levels. Gentech also reports that ADDTabz and its amplified version, ADDTabz RX, are safer and healthier than Adderall, with fewer reported side effects.
But doctors and pharmacists are suspicious of new forms of medication such as ADDTabz, which entered the market nearly six months ago and does not require a prescription. Because it is listed as a “dietary supplement," the U.S. Food and Drug Administration exempts it from requiring a prescription or prior approval from the agency. JeVeire Moore, a pharmacist at UCF’s Health Center, said that Gentech cannot legally say that ADDTabz treats ADHD or narcolepsy, although she thinks it’s heavily implied on the official website, ADDTabz.com.
“What people need to realize about dietary supplements is that there are a lot of marketing ploys put into it,” Moore said. “You kind of have to look at the way it’s being marketed. With dietary supplements, they need to register with the FDA, but they do not need to prove that they are effective.”
Moore went on to say that Gentech is classifying ADDTabz as a “proprietary blend," a term manufacturers of dietary supplements used for their mixtures, called Ampheta-CDP. The Ampheta-CDP mixture contains chemicals such as octopamine, which, according to Gentech, increases energy levels and is also found in insects; methylhexaneamine, a stimulant banned in many sports for its use in performance enhancing drugs; and trimethylxanthine, or caffeine.
“It’s essentially a vitamin with caffeine,” Moore said.
According to the FDA, Adderall’s side effects include dizzying, vomiting, dry mouth, nervousness and lack of sleep.
“ADDTabz was designed from the beginning to be an upgrade to Adderall,” Dr. Stan Headley, medical director for Gentech, said. “Physicians are excited about it because now they don’t have to prescribe it. It’s much safer, cleaner and healthier for patients, but it’s healthier for physicians too because they don’t have to manage the side effects of Adderall.”
Headley said that they’ve only seen rare instances of dry mouth and lack of sleep resulting from ADDTabz, although the latter is most likely due to taking the drug before dinner, which they don’t recommend. They advise customers to take one tablet 30 minutes before breakfast and lunch.
Moore also worries about potential misuse of ADDTabz though, since Adderall’s potential for addiction is high. Moore said that the FDA classifies Adderall as a Schedule II drug, placing it in the same category as other easily abused but useful drugs such as Percocet, Oxycodone and Vyvanse. But Headley asserts that their drug is designed to be much safer.
“It doesn’t have the addiction potential; it doesn’t have the negative side effects [of Adderall],” he said. “[Students] are going to feel really nice, clean energy and be able to focus. Not something where they’ll feel out of control or depressed or under mood swings or anything.”
Last year, the FDA announced shortages of several approved drugs, including Adderall, due to manufacturers lacking adequate supplies of key ingredients for the drugs. The agency also warned of several websites selling fake versions of Adderall after it received complaints from the drug’s generic manufacturer, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries
Moore advises students looking for supplements to be cautious and skeptical of any heavily advertised or promoted products.
“Do your research. Speak with your provider because they’re the ones who can give you that evidence-based, non-biased information,” she said. “Any time you see testimonials, be wary of what people are actually saying. A lot of what is going on with these products are marketing ploys.”
Senior interdisciplinary studies major Angela Boyd said that she is skeptical of AddTabz and how it may affect those who take it.
“It doesn’t sound like a completely safe medication to take,” Boyd said. “It could still have adverse side effects, because it may not be tested with other drugs [a student] may be on.”
Boyd said that she wouldn’t take the drug personally but can see why college students are the focus of most marketing plans.
“College students can be really easy targets, because there is so much pressure to succeed at school,” Boyd said.
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