Taking Drugs to Boost Grades
For some, college was a time for sleeping in and goofing off. For others, memories of college are associated with stress as students worked to achieve good grades while juggling intense academic requirements, extracurricular activities and relationships with a new level of personal responsibility.
The stakes are high. Students understand that their grades will help them secure a good job with financial security. Competition can be fierce to not only be accepted into but also remain in specialty colleges within the university that teach skills to teachers, therapists, accountants and engineers.
“Smart Drugs” Not so Smart
Recently, ABC affiliate 13WHAM of Rochester, New York, highlighted one way that students choose to handle the pressure – misusing prescription stimulants to increase focus and eliminate the need for sleep, known as “smart drugs.”
Adderall is just one brand name drug that students abuse as a study aid. Prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the drug is so widely issued by doctors that students find it relatively easy to obtain as friends may be willing to sell their extra pills.
A study published in The Addiction Journal indicated that the problem is becoming widespread. One in four college students indicate they have used pills to get through an exam or other stressful academic situation.
The 13WHAM story profiles an individual under the pseudonym of Steve who regularly uses stimulants to meet academic requirements. He said the medication increases focus and avoid sleeping, allowing for a 72-hour straight study session he did when taking 60 milligrams of Adderall, which paid off with good grades.
Adderall Abuse & Risks
Adderall abuse is becoming more common and the effects of the drug can lead to increased medical interventions and the need for emergency care.
Students are unaware of or underestimate the risks associated with the misuse of prescription drugs. They may believe that prescription drugs are somehow safer than street drugs or that there isn’t a risk of mixing drugs with other medications. Experts, on the other hand, warn that the drugs can be extremely dangerous, with adverse reactions including stroke, heart attack and psychotic episodes.
13WHAM reported that university health center doctors were seeing increased attempts by students to get prescriptions for stimulants as finals approached. The physicians said that while they are generally able to help students who have a diagnosis for ADHD, it takes more than one exam session to determine whether a student is abusing stimulants.
What Parents Can Do
Parents should take time to talk to their college-age children about the risks of using stimulants. They can also speak openly about their opinions and rules related to substance use. While students enjoy an increased level of freedom at college, many are still receptive to their parents’ viewpoint while they are receiving support, both financial and otherwise.
While parents may doubt their influence, particularly after their teen has left home to pursue a degree, studies show that parents play an important role. Teens who abstain from substance use repeatedly indicate that their parents were influential in helping them decide not to use substances.
Parents can also be a source of support for their college-age child as they face the intense pressure and competition to succeed in school. Keeping an open conversation about the challenges and expectations involved with getting a degree may help a student avoid making poor decisions related to stress management.