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Disability News Last Updated: Feb 4, 2015 - 12:35:55 PM

Non-medical use of prescription drugs
Apr 21, 2014 - 8:54:02 AM

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There has been a great deal of research done in the area of abuse of prescription drugs. That is nothing new. What seems to be new, according to the University of Michigan Substance Abuse Research Center, is the increase in use of prescription drugs in the college population. According to Sean McCabe, one of the people involved in completing the research, there has been a significant increase in this behavior over the past decade.

Currently, full-time college students are twice as likely to use Adderall, a prescription drug used to treat ADHD, as compared to their counterparts who were not full-time students. It seems that according to the research being done in Michigan, that the problem is most pronounced in “elite” schools. It is estimated that up to 30% of full-time students in these more demanding schools use stimulants non-medically.

Other research being done at University of Kentucky found that the longer the student stays on campus, the more likely they are to use stimulant medications. Up to 90% of the students who were using these medications, who participated in the study, indicated that they used them to improve their concentration and studying.

According to Dr. Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist and ADHD expert, these stimulant medications “strengthen the brain’s brakes, its inhibitory capacities, so it can control its power more effectively”. Stimulant medications do this by increasing the amount of certain neurotransmitters including dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine.

One of the dangers of this trend is that students who take these prescription medications for non-medical reasons seem to not see any drawbacks of doing so. Students typically say that they take the stimulants for the “right reasons” and therefore it is fine to do so. In 2008, a study of 1800 college students found that 81% thought that illicit use of ADHD medication was “not dangerous at all” or “slightly dangerous”. When compared to methamphetamine users, the Adderall user looks very normal and healthy, therefore giving the impression that it is not harmful to take the medication for non-medical reasons. According to Sean McCabe, college students underestimate the potential harms associated with the use of these medications.

Adderall and similar medications are considered Schedule II substances, sitting pretty high on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list right next to cocaine, meth and morphine. Some of the short-term problems with the use of these medications include:
● Sleep difficulties
● Restlessness
● Headaches
● Irritability
● Depression

The long-terms risks have more to do with the psychological and physical dependence that the students develop by using this drug. The DEA considers Schedule II substances to have a high potential for abuse and dependence.

Apart from the health risks of using ADHD drugs non-medically, is the small fact that it is illegal to do so. One student who uses the medications stated that “the fact that it’s illegal really doesn’t cross my mind…it’s not something I get nervous about because it’s so widespread and simple”. Another student stated that after taking Adderall, it made him feel alive and awake and ready for the challenges that would come his way.

According to researchers in this area, the biggest barrier to changing attitudes is the effectiveness of the stimulants on campuses where the ends justify the means. After those late night library sessions, students often praise the little pill that got them through their study marathon into the morning.

Quotation of the Week
"Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is like expecting a bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian."
Dennis Wholey

Comments: Trish-blair@redwoods.edu

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