Photo by Joey Gale, photo editor
Mountains of papers, hours of studying and numerous finals stand between Drake students and their desired month-long winter break. With so many assignments to complete and only 24 hours in a day, students are looking for quick and easy ways to survive the end-of-semester turbulence.
Instead of drinking large amounts of caffeine, college students are increasingly relying on prescription drugs like Adderall and Ritalin to help them study, researchers said.
According to an article on Drugs.com, Adderall contains a number of different amphetamines that stimulate the body and alter chemicals in the brain to increase attentiveness and awareness of surroundings. Hyperactive individuals take the prescription drug to help them function in their everyday activities. But for college students, such stimulants have non-medical purposes.
Some students report that using stimulant medications makes them feel more motivated and eager to hit the books during finals week. They claim they are less likely to procrastinate on their work after taking the drug.
According to a 2009 National Survey on Drug Use in Health: “Full-time college students between the ages of 18 and 22 are twice as likely as their counterparts who are not full-time college students to have used Adderall non-medically in the past year.”
Since then, statistics for non-medical prescription drug use among college students have continued to rise nationwide.
However, faculty members say that the use of stimulants appears to be far less prevalent on Drake’s campus.
“Studies have documented misuse of stimulant medications among college students, but I have not personally seen this at Drake,” said Cheryl Clarke, assistant professor of pharmacy practice. “I’m sure we’re not immune to this danger, though.”
Some students have heard otherwise.
“I’ve definitely heard of a couple instances of Adderall use recently,” sophomore Kaila Wechsler said. “As finals come around, you hear about it more.”
Some students said they believe that taking over-the-counter medicines for academic purposes is relatively harmless — so long as the drugs are used in moderation.
“If it’s something that helps you focus, I feel like it’s not that big of a deal,” Wechsler said. “It definitely shouldn’t be used frequently, but every once in a while shouldn’t hurt.”
However, many students aren’t aware that occasional use could lead to severe consequences.
Adderall and other stimulant medications are known to be highly addictive, a fact that Renae Chesnut, the associate dean of the college of pharmacy and health sciences, said shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“Sometimes people think that medications are safe because they have been approved by the Federal Drug Administration, and that they are therefore different than illicit drugs,” Chesnut said. “However, they are addictive, and among other side effects, can cause serious cardiac problems. I would discourage anyone from using this potentially harmful medication without having a prescription.”
Even more serious than the potential health risks are the legal implications of having stimulant medications without a prescription. Because Adderall is classified as a controlled substance, possessing the drug without a prescription or with an intention to distribute is considered a serious misdemeanor in Iowa. According to the governor’s office of drug control policy, first offense violators can be issued a fine or up to a year of imprisonment, while subsequent offenses receive more.
Drake also has its own penalties for drug possession. Students can be fined, given probation, removed from their residence hall or subjected to a drug and alcohol assessment if caught with prescription drugs that aren’t theirs.
To avoid these serious outcomes, Chesnut advises students to drop the Adderall and de-stress in healthier ways during finals week.
“Eat healthy, get plenty of sleep and maintain an exercise regime,” she said. “Take frequent, short study breaks and use relaxation techniques if you start to feel stressed.”
Clarke also said that the dangers of Adderall are not worth it.
“Taking a medication which may cause adverse effects could do much more harm than good to not just your health, but your grades as well,” Clarke said.