Like it or not, drugs and alcohol have always been a part of college life. Most college students use these recreationally and some go one step further and become dependent on one or the other or both. Some students have also taken amphetamines, otherwise known as speed, in order to cram for exams or other stressful events. Today, ADHD medications can be added to the list of abused drugs. These are mind-altering drugs with potentially serious adverse side effects. This form of stimulant abuse is dangerous and not to be regarded lightly.
In various studies, it has been found that about a third of college students have taken ADHD medications in order to focus and get through exams or stay up all night to study. It has been found that half of juniors and seniors have abused these drugs and eighty percent of upperclassmen in fraternities and sororities have taken ADHD drugs.
This stimulant abuse has gotten to be such a problem that many colleges won’t prescribe stimulant medications to students who have been diagnosed with ADHD. This is because some students will give a few of their pills to other students and some will sell them to their fellow students. Some students will even fake ADHD symptoms just to get that diagnosis and a prescription. As a result, some colleges are making it more difficult to get these drugs by requiring a specific contract so the student doesn’t abuse or share the drug.
This is a good thing as many students and parents are unaware of the dangers of these drugs. Ritalin and Adderall are the most commonly abused ADHD medications. They are classified by the FDA as Schedule II drugs. This means they have the highest potential for abuse and dependence physically and psychologically. Other Schedule II drugs are cocaine, morphine, amphetamines and various opiates. Obviously, these are powerful drugs not to be ignored.
What is of the utmost concern are the side effects from this kind of stimulant abuse. Whether Adderall or Ritalin is used to study or just to get high, there are adverse side effects. They both carry an FDA Black Box Warning which is the highest alert issued by the government. The Black Box Warning is to alert the consumer of the possibility of sudden death and serious cardiovascular events.
Ritalin has additional heart-related side effects such as angina, arrhythmia, palpitations and strokes. Adderall is amphetamine-based and has other heart-related side effects such as hypertension, elevated blood pressure and cardiomyopathy (which is a type of sudden cardiac death). Clearly, these cardiovascular problems alone are serious enough so that the only sensible choice is to abstain from stimulant abuse.
Both drugs can also cause depression, psychosis, seizures, tics and many other undesirable problems. Ritalin also causes delusions, hallucinations, agitation and anxiety. Suicidal thoughts and aggressive or violent behavior are also possible. On top of all this, the long-term effects on the student’s developing brain are unknown.
A freshman honor student that became addicted to Adderall is a prime example of stimulant abuse. She was having trouble keeping up with her studies so she took a “smart pill” offered by one of her friends. She thought she would just use it one night to study for a test and before she knew it she was using Adderall every night to study.
She experienced unexpected side effects such as mood swings, insomnia, panic attacks and depression. Within six months, she went from being on an academic scholarship to academic probation to being asked to withdraw from the school, all due to her Adderall abuse.
There are most likely other students experiencing the same dependence and side effects of stimulant abuse, yet a significant portion of the student population is not aware of these dangers. Some students have voiced that they think Ritalin and Adderall are just “study pills” and are not as bad as smoking and drinking beer! Some even think they are even safer than using street drugs. This can’t be any further from the truth.
Parents have been found to have similar views and some are not happy at all that their children diagnosed with ADHD are not getting the support and treatment needed. Some parents consider ADHD treatment on the same level as treatment of asthma, diabetes and other physiological ailments. They have been misinformed as this is not valid.
ADHD is not diagnosed by any medical test, therefore it is not a medical condition. Without a blood test, urine test, MRI, x-ray or some other physiological test to locate the ADHD, there is no scientific proof that ADHD exists. It is no surprise that a student can successfully pretend to have ADHD because it is based only on agreed-upon symptoms and nothing else.
Drugs like Adderall and Ritalin aren’t correcting any “chemical brain imbalance” either as there is no scientific evidence to prove there was an imbalance in the first place. All the ADHD drugs are doing is changing brain function and providing serious adverse side effects and of course the opportunity for stimulant abuse.
Forget using psychiatric drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall. Educate yourself on the dangers of all ADHD drugs. Get the facts and help your son or daughter get through college without stimulant abuse.