Unbeknownst to many of its casual users, possession of Adderall – the increasingly popular Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder medication – can lead to hefty charges, if not coupled with a proper prescription.

According to Sarah Pullen, a spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, possession of the drug without proper documentation may lead to repercussions on both the state and federal level. While the drug falls under Department of Justice guidelines, she said several government entities could be involved, depending on the circumstances of the possession.

“In addition to the DEA, local law enforcement could well be involved, which may lead to State of California charges as well,” Pullen said. “In addition to charges associated with the drug itself, charges may also involve distribution using the Internet.”

Released in 1996 as a brand-name treatment for ADHD, Adderall has come to be associated with late night study sessions, not prison time. According to Shire, the pharmaceutical company holding patent rights to Adderall XR, students taking a dose of the chemical mixture showed classroom behavioral improvements and a heightened level of focus – desirable qualities for those suffering from ADHD and undiagnosed students aiming to enhance their studying and test-taking performance.

But according to the California Health and Safety Code, anyone in possession of a controlled substance for which they were not specifically prescribed may face up to a year in state prison. The code includes provisions to adjust the punishment to a misdemeanor for first-time offenders. However, Santa Barbara Criminal Defense Attorney William Makler said, the “broad wording” of the code leaves much of the sentencing discretion in the hands of the court.

“It’s the same charge as they charge for someone for meth,” Makler said. “It’s broadly worded, but Adderall is in the same drug category as methamphetamine.”

Despite the vague wording, Makler said that possession of a small amount of unprescribed drugs would usually result in a misdemeanor charge for a first-time offender.

“If you don’t have any history of drug offenses, if you’ve never been to court before, simple possession is likely to lead to classes and ultimate dismissal of charges,” Makler said. “I’m trying to keep the consequences in perspective. It could be classified as a felony, but classes could be an option to wash out the criminal effect.

Makler said he believes the drug has become more prevalent among his I.V. clientele and in cases heard downtown.

“It’s really just one of the emerging things,” Makler said. “You’re starting to hear about in I.V., and I’m starting to see it in the courthouse.”

A UCSB student and I.V. resident, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confided that a friend had provided him with several Concerta pills, an ADHD medication in Adderall’s chemical family. Recently, the pills were seized in an unrelated police search, and the student is facing charges yet to be determined.

According to the I.V. resident, he was surprised that the few pills in his possession even merited a charge.

“Actually, I didn’t know if they were going to charge me or not,” the student said. “I read on the Internet that it depends on how many pills they need to arrest you, but I guess I’ll find out eventually.”