As everyone from kindergarteners to college students head back to school for a new semester this September, it is important to bring to light a rising trend: “study drugs”. Of course you won’t see any kindergarteners taking study drugs, but high school students and especially college and university students are at high risk for abusing these drugs.
Adderall and Ritalin are the most well-known study drugs. For those who aren’t familiar with these drugs, they are prescription drugs geared to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and/or attention deficit disorder (ADD). People who suffer from ADD/ADHD, a psychiatric disorder, find it hard to concentrate on one task and get distracted easily. The difference between ADD and ADHD is that the latter shows signs of hyperactivity while the former does not. Regardless, however, one thing all of these people tend to have in common, is difficulty focusing on school work.
Adderall and Ritalin are stimulants, a type of cognitive enhancer that allows those with ADD/ADHD to focus ‘normally’ on tasks at hand, including school work. Since the 1970s however, there has been a lot of discussion about whether or not doctors are too quick to label bored, fidgety children as having ADHD. Across the U.S., some states have noted that up to 18% of children between 4 and 17 years of age have been diagnosed with ADHD – which means these children have been prescribed medication, usually Adderall or Ritalin. Therefore there are a significant number of youngsters in each level of school who have access to, and take these drugs.
It is unclear as to when the trend picked up popularity, but at one point, students who did not have ADHD/ADD clearly tried the medication and found that it gave them a new energy, an alertness and the capability to power through study sessions or papers easier than before. What helps a student with ADHD study at a regular level is said to help other students study at an above-average level. And when students are feeling under pressure to get good grades, the chances of them trying the drugs rise.
A 2011 study of health students in a U.S. university, published in the Journal of Physician Assistant Education, found that over 90% of students who had used these drugs without a prescription did so to “focus and concentrate during studying.”
The problem with this, however, is that these drugs can cause psychiatric and physical dependence – especially in those who have not been diagnosed with ADHD/ADD. Stopping use after a period of frequent using can make the user feel like they don’t function properly without the drug. Short-term side effects of the drug include sleeplessness, headaches, irritability and depression. Long-term effects include nervousness and a decreased sex drive.
Not only does this drug abuse cause health problems and potentially addiction, using prescription drugs without a prescription is illegal. In the U.S., Adderall and Ritalin are classified as schedule II substances – next to cocaine, meth and morphine.
If you suspect that someone you know is abusing “study drugs”, pass along this information. Grades are important – but what’s more important is your health (and staying out of jail). If you know someone who has an addiction problem, contact a professional for guidance on how to handle the situation properly, and get them the help they need.