When we think of substance abuse in college, it is not uncommon to assume that the drugs being abused are alcohol or other “party drugs.” The fact is, however, an alarming number of college students are abusing “study drugs” like Ritalin or Adderall. It can be particularly difficult to spot a dependency on these drugs, since many of the people who use them are getting good grades, and many other people are prescribed these drugs as treatment for a legitimate condition like Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). The growing incidents of study drug abuse is disturbing because these drugs, when used by someone who does not need them, can be very dangerous.
Both Adderall and Ritalin are very strong stimulants, which means that they come with serious side effects. They can cause serious physiological reactions in the body. They can cause insomnia, anxiety, and hallucinations. Stimulants increase a person’s heart rate, which makes them much more prone to seizures and chest pains. The side effects of an increased heart rate can be very severe and even deadly. It is possible for stimulants to cause an irregular heartbeat or the potential for cardiovascular failure.
Adderall and Ritalin are both extremely habit forming. This is dangerous because it can lead to long stretches of irregular heartbeat. The abuse of these drugs also greatly increases the chances that a student will become addicted to street stimulants like cocaine or crystal meth. These drugs, of course, have a devastating effect on anyone’s life, but are particularly dangerous for a young person whose body and mind are still developing.
Stimulants are also highly disruptive to a normal schedule of eating and sleeping. Insomnia and loss of appetite are found in most people who take the drug. Loss of sleep or proper nutrition are linked to depression and anxiety, which are problematic in and of themselves, but can also lead to the abuse of alcohol or other controlled substances.
Problems For Colleges
Many colleges and universities are aware of this problem among their students, and are attempting to curb the recent upswing in their abuse. Some schools are requiring that students who have a prescription for their ADD disclose this information to their school, and sign a document vowing not to distribute the drugs illegally. Other schools are going so far as to require drug testing and the addictions have led to an increase in young adult interventions.
It is difficult to say what exactly leads a student to start abusing study drugs, but the causes seem to be rooted in a feeling of being overwhelmed by school work, or a feeling of intense competition against other students, many of whom are also using Adderall. These drugs are, in fact, frequently referred to as “steroids for students.”
Time Management Skills
One possible way to avoid abusing the drugs is to cultivate time management skills at a young age. Many of the young adults who admit to using stimulants say that they use them around exam time, or other periods when they are faced with heavy work loads. Teaching kids planning skills early in life may reduce their tendency to procrastinate and thus be faced with a seemingly insurmountable workload.
If a young person is abusing a study drug, it is imperative that they stop immediately. Continuing the use of these drugs will lead to serious health risks, and the possibility of continued addiction. The school work that a student is using drugs for may be much more manageable without drugs than they think, but because of their dependency, they have adopted the attitude that they need drugs to accomplish tasks. If you or a loved one is using Adderall, Ritalin, or a related drug recreationally, seek help as soon as possible.