Students use stimulants as study aid

(Lily Choi | The Oswegonian)
(Lily Choi | The Oswegonian)

With two weeks of classes left in the semester and finals week after that, Oswego State students will be working on lots of papers, projects and studying for tests and finals. During these times, college students around the nation can be easily tempted to get some help from what has come to be known as “study drugs.”

The most popular of these being Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse, all medications for those diagnosed with ADHD. Studies show these drugs are becoming increasingly popular for overstressed college students who aren’t diagnosed with this disease.

According to a report by the National Survey on Drug Use, full-time college students were twice as likely to have used Adderall non-medically than those with ADHD who were not full-time students in 2009. Some researchers estimate as much as 30 percent of students use stimulants non-medically. In addition, 62 percent of college students with ADHD report selling or giving away their prescription drugs.

“Students use Adderall for a number of reasons, but mostly they believe it will help them focus or pull ‘all nighters,’” said Trisha DeWolf, Alcohol and Other Drug Program Coordinator at Oswego State’s Lifestyles Center. “Some students do use these stimulants to feel euphoric. Students think these drugs will improve their grades, but studies have shown that most college-aged Adderall abusers have a GPA lower than 3.0.”

There is a lot of concern by health officials about the negative side effects that Adderall has on those who aren’t prescribed to it. Besides the advantages it may have for studying purposes, Adderall can also cause diarrhea, dizziness, changes in sex drive, uncontrollable shaking, heart palpitations, verbal or motor tics, chest pain, shortness of breath, numbness in the arms and legs, changes in vision, aggressive behavior and blistering skin, according to DeWolf.

“If using these prescription stimulants recreationally wasn’t bad enough, students who mix them with alcohol are in even more danger,” DeWolf said. “Adderall can hinder your ability to tell if you are too tired or too intoxicated. So you end up drinking more. Your internal cues of whether you have had enough are no longer accurate. Although your mind may not be telling you there is a problem, your body is taking the toll of the alcohol without your realizing it. Alcohol poisoning is a real danger in this situation.”

Perhaps the biggest concern in the case of Adderall is students’ disregard for the negative effects, justifying its use because it is for a “good reason,” meaning its use improve their school grades overall.

In a 2008 study of 1,800 college students, 81 percent of students interviewed thought illicit use of ADHD medication was “not dangerous at all” or “slightly dangerous.”

“Granted, there are healthier options but each student has a story,” senior Christianna Miller said. “Perhaps one has too much pressure. Perhaps one simply feels more confident in their abilities while under the influence of a study aid. The circumstances should be understood before we resort to placing stigmas onto others. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s okay.”

Senior Shannon Sampson does not use the study drug herself, but knows a few of her friends that use it to help their studies.

“I know exam times can be stressful and while it’s hard for me to see my friends take these kinds of drugs, such as Adderall, I can understand why they would,” Sampson said. “With so many exams, essays and presentations, to do anything that can help you focus is worth considering. It makes me uneasy, but yes.”

DeWolf said many students and non-students see Adderall as safe because they are drugs that are prescribed by physicians, so they feel they should be safe even if they aren’t prescribed to them.

“People perceive them to be safer than street drugs,” DeWolf said.

Similar to other schools, Oswego State has a zero tolerance for drug usage overall. The effects of Adderall on non-prescription students are still not exactly known as studies have yet to be adequately performed. Some students believe that if anything, the campus should be concentrating on other affairs that are more critical to individual student safety.

“Of course there should always be dissemination of information regarding the potential effects, regardless the substance,” Miller said. “However, I think we should tackle more dire issues first, like how there is still an overwhelming percentage of sexual misconduct on campuses or bias-related violence of lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender college students.”