Study pills juice the cramming


prescription drugs

By Bill Cooney
[email protected]

[Editor’s note: This story is a part of today’s special issue focused solely on drugs.]

Cramming and pulling an all-nighter before an exam are just a few of the traditional strategies students use to try to gain a last-minute edge. However, in recent years an illegal, potentially dangerous one has been gaining traction nationwide.

The use of stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin on college campuses without a prescription has risen steadily in recent years across the nation and on the University of Iowa campus, according to both a nationwide survey and data from UI Student Health & Wellness.

Student Health found that, in 2015, 20.6 percent of UI undergraduates illegally had used a prescription stimulant in the previous 12 months. This is far more than the national level of 8.1 percent of undergraduates who reported illegal stimulant use in over the same time period.

Misuse of stimulants in college is one of the fastest growing trends among students and an ever-growing problem, said Kenneth Hale, a clinical professor of pharmacy at Ohio State University.

“This is one of our big ones right now,” Hale said. “Students don’t perceive any real risk because they believe drugs like Adderall are just study aids or performance enhancers.”

In fact, Hale said, studies have shown people who misuse prescription stimulants have, on average, a lower GPA than non-users.

“There’s some mythical perceptions that these drugs will magically help students,” he said. “But, a lot of the time, students who aren’t using them properly are using them as cognitive compensators because they’re not prepared.”

The 2015 College Prescription Drug Study reported 83 percent of students nationwide who misused prescription stimulants said they used them in an attempt to improve their academic performance.

One UI student who used to sell Adderall on campus said that at the time, a lot of students were looking for it.

“I started in December of my freshman year, finals week actually,” the student said. “I just sold it as people needed it; my friends knew I had it, so they would ask me.”

Hale said around 70 percent of people who misuse prescription drugs get them from either family or friends.

The ex-Adderall dealer noticed an uptick in business at certain times during the semester, echoing Hale’s earlier observation of many students who misuse stimulants.

“I definitely saw an increase in business during finals and midterm time,” the student said. “I wouldn’t call it cheating; just because you’re taking Adderall doesn’t mean you’re going to study; it’s more of a tool.”

The student made around $150 after selling all of one prescription at $5 a pill. The student stopped during sophomore year.

“There was for sure still a demand there,” student said. “But even with the number of people who needed it, I didn’t want to be responsible if someone got hurt or something.”

The UI Student Code of Conduct prohibits consuming, possessing, distributing, or selling any illegal drugs, prescription or otherwise.

Kieran Leopold, a UI student-conduct officer, said use of Adderall and similar drugs could be considered cheating academically, and it would be treated as a behavioral offense.

“A professor might look at it as cheating, but we would put that under behavioral conduct,” Leopold said. “Academics might be the motive, but possession of a controlled substance would probably be treated as a criminal or behavioral offense.”

Prescription stimulants, when used correctly, can help those with learning disabilities, Hale said.

“There’s clearly a place for these drugs to treat ADHD when properly used and prescribed,” Hale said. “But it’s the use of non-prescribed drugs without the proper medical supervision, that’s cause for concern.”

Hale said he thinks colleges should start educating students on the dangers of misusing prescription drugs similar to how they do with alcohol.

“We need to tell students about the reality of this, what the potential harm of doing this? What can these drugs do to you?” he said. “Training students to have healthy approaches to work now, because if they’re misusing these drugs in college, what’s to say they won’t continue to afterwards?”

Facebook Comments