Doctors in Canada are concerned that university and college students are abusing a prescription drug that contains amphetamines to stay awake and maintain their attention span through the school year.

The drug Adderall, which is most commonly prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, has been popping up on campuses across North America. Students use it to retain their focus, particularly during stressful periods such as exam time.

However, many of the students don’t have prescriptions and turn to the Internet to get the drug, or reach out to a friend or family member with a prescription.

Researchers in the United States estimate that as many as 30 per cent of students there are abusing Adderall. Canadian data is limited, but what studies do exist suggest that 11 per cent of students have used, or would consider using, the drug.

“It has quite the presence around campus here, and I hear about it all the time,” one University of British Columbia student, who wished to remain anonymous, told CTV News.

Dr. David Juurlink, a clinical pharmacologist at Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, tracks and studies prescription drugs such as Adderall.

“In the wrong patient and at the wrong dose, it can be quite dangerous,” Juurlink told CTV News of taking a drug without a prescription. “But the fact is, it is not a difficult drug for a child or young adult to get.”

Some students turn to online sales sites such as Craigslist, where a quick scan of Adderall listings shows a price tag of $1 to $10 per pill.

Michel Perron, CEO of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, said despite the easy online access, most students get the drug from someone they know who has a prescription.

“Up to 70 per cent of these drugs have been obtained from medicine cabinets,” Perron told CTV. “When it comes to monitoring prescription drugs, we need to do more nationally.”

As it stands, there is no federal data mine on prescription drug misuse in Canada. However, within weeks Health Canada and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse will together launch a national strategy aimed at curbing all kinds of prescription-drug abuse.

With a report from CTV’s Vancouver Bureau Chief Melanie Nagy