Why Do Students Take "Study Drugs?"

he is using a study drug to stay up late and cram for a testIn an increasingly competitive academic clime and difficult post-graduation job market, more and more high school and college students are turning to stimulants and amphetamines to get an edge.Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) medication for students is widely available on campuses, even though only about 4% of adults meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. Students report that it is easy to get a doctor to prescribe ADHD medications like Ritalin and Adderall, or simply buy pills from a friend or classmate who has a prescription.Why have these so-called study drugs become so popular? The New York Times conducted interviews with a number of students who have abused these drugs, and while everyone’s story was different, the following reasons kept coming up:

  • Needing to stay awake to get work done
  • A tight deadline for a paper or large homework assignment
  • The stress of a consistently heavy homework load
  • Pressure from parents and educators to do well in school
  • Wanting to get an academic edge at a highly competitive school

The Dangers of Stimulant and Amphetamine Abuse

ADHD drugs like Adderall and Ritalin fall into the category of stimulant drugs, which can have a whole host of risks. It is easy to become addicted to stimulants, and those who take them regularly often find that they need higher and higher doses just to feel like they’re having an effect. Long-term effects can include depression, sleeplessness, anxiety, and memory problems.  Heart and blood vessel damage have also been linked to the long-term “nonmedical” use of ADHD medications. (Forbes)Another study drug that is commonly abused by students, speed, falls into the amphetamine category. Much like with stimulants, abusing an amphetamine can lead to addiction, sleeping problems, high blood pressure, the increased risk of a stroke, depression anxiety, poor memory, and trouble concentrating without the drug.

Combating Student Drug Addiction

One of the main problems commonly cited when it comes to student drug addiction is that parents and students simply don’t know enough about the dangers of abusing ADHD medication or speed. In one study, 1 in 10 high school students admitted to using a prescription study drug to give them an academic advantage, but most parents did not realize this was going on. (US News) Having parents, educators, and health professionals be upfront with students about the dangers of study drug abuse may help reduce the number of teenagers who turn to prescription medications.

Students who are already struggling with an ADHD medication or speed addiction should seek professional help.

There are a few rehab centers in the country that focus solely on ADHD drug abuse treatment, but most drug rehab centers are staffed by health care professionals who are trained to work with patients overcoming addictions like this.Certain types of therapy may also be beneficial to the study drug addict who is not willing or able to check into an inpatient rehab facility. Cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of talk therapy that focuses on getting patients to change bad habits, has shown some benefits for both patients with adult ADHD and those who only use ADHD medication for performance enhancement.The most important thing for people with a study drug addiction is to recognize that their drug of choice can be as dangerous as many illicit drugs and that they need to talk to someone about getting addiction treatment.

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