By JOHN WYATT – NEWS SECTION EDITOR
It’s no secret that college is stressful. Every college student can tell you a story where they pulled an all-nighter to study for that “big test,” or a time where every class had a paper or test in the same week.
Stress is just something that comes with going to college, and taking a look at any Centre student’s Twitter timeline will confirm this.
While most people deal with stress in a relatively safe way, such as that late-night meal at the Grill or that extra-long nap after class, sometimes people feel forced to turn to more extreme measures.
One of these extreme measures is the use of ADD/ADHD prescription drugs such as Adderall. These stimulants are designed to help patients with all kinds of issues, ranging from mental processing and learning to behavior.
When used responsibly and in the right dosage, these stimulant drugs are generally considered safe and effective. However, these substances also have the potential for abuse.
Currently, national studies are showing an alarming rise in the use of medication such as Adderall and Ritalin by high school and college students who do not have a prescription or diagnosed condition.
Getting these stimulants is becoming increasingly easy for students as the trend grows.
“Students ‘borrow’ from friends, or buy from others,” Director of Counseling Services Kathy Miles said.
Studies have shown abuse of Adderall and Ritalin is often a result of the high-stress environments that are high schools and colleges.
“The most common reason students say they take the medications is to focus and help them study,” Miles said. “Increasing pressure on high school students to make high scores on standardized tests like the ACT is thought to be one reason high school students are reportedly using stimulants more.”
Though the numbers vary slightly school to school, studies have generally shown a rising percentage of the abuse of these substances.
The American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment has shown that at least seven-and-a-half percent of students surveyed reported using medicationsuch as Adderall without a prescription within a 12 month period.
While these numbers don’t necessarily reflect Centre’s campus, Parsons Student Health Center staff are observing what they can through the students.
“We do know in an anecdotal way that students say they are using these drugs to study during exam times, and we do know that more students are arriving on campus with a prescription for one of these medications than as recently as five years ago,” Miles said.
Using these medications can help someone get through a long day of studying, but there are severe risks when using the drug without a prescription.
“Nonmedical use of stimulant drugs has been linked to heart and blood vessel problems, ER visits related to accelerated heart and respiration rate, increased anxiety and panic attacks, insomnia and other sleep problems, and substance abuse disorders,” Miles said.
Studying, however, is not the only reason people may abuse Addrell and Ritalin. They are also becoming common as a party drugs, with several party goers taking them alongside a night of drinking.
This can be even more dangerous than using the medication to study, according to Dr. Miles.
“People who drink while taking stimulants like Adderall often do not realize they are as intoxicated as they are, because the stimulant masks their perception of their intoxication level–it does not change their blood alcohol level.”
There are measures already in place by the college to prevent any misuse of these medications on their part.
“We have an understanding at Parsons that we will not prescribe Adderall or other stimulant medications through our facility,” Director of Parsons Student Health Center Kathy Jones.
“When a student comes to Parsons saying that they have a need/desire to start these meds, we will refer to a psychiatrist for evaluation. We usually refer to the counseling services at Centre as well just in case there are other ways to address the issues.”
If anyone feels that they legitimately have symptoms of ADHD, Parsons staff recommend scheduling a visit.
“If a student has never been diagnosed with ADHD, but believes they have those symptoms, referral for neuropsychological testing may be done through our office,” Dr. Miles said.
“It is also important to know that there are strategies we all can learn that provide non-pharmaceutical approaches to address focus, attention, and information retention.”