With finals week approaching, students are more likely to be found in the library than in the pub, and some who are buckling under endless workloads may look to study drugs to stay focused.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2011, an estimated 5 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 who did not have ADHD used prescription drugs like Adderall and Ritalin in order to improve their concentration while studying.
“There may be some increase in focus for a short time and the person will be able to stay awake longer, but retain less,” said Michael Ritter, director of Creating Empowerment through Alcohol and Substance Abuse Education. “Studying for shorter periods when rested is the best way to foster retention.”
Ritter said the perception is that these drugs, used for people with ADHD, will help the average person be more focused while studying, which is only partially accurate.
Prescription drug abuse is a concern for the University according to Ritter, especially since students have access to these medications as more of the drugs are being prescribed in general. He added that the Student Health Services is extremely cautious about prescribing these medications and have strict guidelines and limits.
“I disagree with using drugs as a study aid,” said Richard Harvey, a health education professor, “Taking a pill to solve a problem may have a variety of unintended side effects, such as the potential for addiction, or bad interactions with other drugs.”
Harvey, who regularly has discussions with his students about stimulant and depressant drug effects and interactions, added that misusing drugs to address difficulties with time management is not the solution.
“I also remind students that too many drugs on board, simultaneously interacting is a leading cause of illness or death in the country,” Harvey said.
The side effects of Adderall vary depending on the individual, according to the Food and Drug Administration, but often include trouble sleeping, mood swings and dizziness. It can also lead to cardiovascular problems, such as disrupted heart rhythm and increased blood pressure.
Joanna Llamas said that she doesn’t prefer to use study drugs and that her alternatives are time management and relaxing when she is stressed out.
“By taking these drugs, students are able to focus more on their finals, making it unfair to other students who chose not to utilize the drugs,” said Llamas, a senior health education major. “I would feel like a cheat(er) if I ever took Adderall and Ritalin during my finals.”