Out of focus

Audrey Wagstaff

Students who take prescription drugs to concentrate run health risks

Students who sell Adderall usually make their money because of the buyer’s demand of what some call “the study drug.” The effects of snorting Adderall have been shown to resemble that of snorting cocaine, but not quite as intense. It is usually sol

Credit: Jason Hall

NoDoze and coffee.

As the end of the academic semester ends, many students will ingest more caffeine than usual – in products such as these – to complete papers and study for final exams.

Others may turn to ingesting beverages with an added ingredient: prescription medications.

A new concern in the medical community suggests college students are taking drugs used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder to stay up late and concentrate on schoolwork. Health care professionals are becoming increasingly concerned but warn this is not a new phenomenon.

Nurse Practitioner Sherry Swanson of the Julia Church Health Center at Hiram College said abusing drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin is a national epidemic.

“It has been happening for years,” Swanson said. “And it’s filtering down to younger students. It’s not just a college problem anymore.”

Megan, 23, an information design major who asked to remain anonymous, said she’s taken both medications to treat ADD since eighth grade. She said friends without ADHD or ADD often borrow her Adderall to help them study.

“It does help with all-nighters,” Megan said. “It helps me focus, concentrate on one thing.”

Megan said her friends aren’t the only ones taking the medications.

“I know so many people who buy them from other people in bulk or people who sell their prescriptions because they know college kids who want them,” she said. “More people than you think do it.”

Dave, 22, a business management major who also asked to be identified by his first name only, said he’s taken Adderall from a friend with ADHD.

“It seemed like a good idea because it allowed me to sit through a four-hour class without being distracted by other thoughts,” Dave said.

However, Dave said he wouldn’t do it again.

“I had no appetite and was tired for days after it wore off,” he said. “I’ve never been much of a coffee drinker, but I think it’s a far better substitute.”

Dave also described the effect of the drug on his friend, who suffers from ADHD. He said because his friend had access to Adderall, his friend procrastinated from doing schoolwork. Subsequently, the night before a paper was due, he would take Adderall and stay up.

“It drained him and caused him to sleep all day then stay up late at night,” Dave said. “This process continued all semester as he became more dependent on it to stay awake and attend class. Basically, it affected his whole style of living.”

This dependency is only one danger associated with abusing these medications, Swanson said.

“It’s highly addictive,” Swanson said. “It’s kind of like cocaine and can lead to other substance overuse.”

Dr. Robert Findling, director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospital and professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University agrees.

“There are definitely risks of abusing them,” Findling said. “They certainly are prescription medications and should only be used under a prescribing physician.”

Swanson said studies are being conducted about long-term effects.

“Taking Adderall or Ritalin can produce out-of-control side effects, which could trigger cardiac arrest plus a host of other problems like insomnia and depression,” she said.

The medications cause mood changes and a risk of psychosis, hallucinations and paranoia as well, Finding said.

“It’s really a bad idea (to take them without prescription) and really shouldn’t be done,” he said.

Contact public affairs reporter Audrey Wagstaff at [email protected].