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March 13, 2013 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2013-03-13

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4B d

W5ednesday, March 13, 2013 The Statement


By Ian DiIlitng}am

how students on campus misuse stimulats

J ts not so much peer pressure as
peer acceptance."
"Because it's so accepted
among a lot of people," Kinesiology fresh-
man Andrew said. "You don't see any harm
in doing it."
Within the increasingly competitive
college environment, where students are
being pushed to achieve socially, academi-
cally and professionally, academic "per-
formance enhancers" are being widely
abused. Across the nation, students turn
to these stimulants in an attempt to gain
a mental edge.
Prescribed in various forms like Adder-
all and Ritalin to treat conditions like
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,
amphetamines and methylphenidates are
the most common 'study aids' abused on
For about $5 per pill - $10 during finals
week - students buy these drugs from
dorm mates, study partners and even fam-
ily members.
Like many of his fellow students,
Andrew said he often struggles to keep up
when he has multiple projects and exams
to worry about each week. When these
projects start to stack up, Andrew takes
Adderall to help him get through a long
day in the UGLi.
Despite serious legal consequences for
taking Adderall - or any similar medica-
tion - without a prescription, Andrew
feels the risk is worth it.
"I find so far that it's extremely ben-

eficial," Andrew said. "Some people feel
like there's a negative connotation around
Adderall just because its not an open, legal
drug ... If I could only do one drug the rest
of my collegiate career, it would most like-
ly be Adderall because I feel that the aca-
demic upside to it is so significant that it
can only help."
Since coming to the University he has
taken the drug five or six times while
"It's pretty common during finals sea-
son," Andrew said. "It doesn't necessarily
improve your work, it just makes you focus
more. It doesn't make you smarter, you can
just get your work done faster."
When he feels the need to "really get
work done," he buys Adderall from a friend
who is prescribed the drug for ADHD. It
has a positive effect on his work, making
him act "normally" but with high produc-
tivity levels.
"It's impossible to detect," he said. "If
I'm sitting next to you in the library and
we're both doing work, but I'm doing my
work a little bit faster and a little less dis-
tracted, nobody will be able to notice."
Andrew said he didn't feel pressured
into taking Adderall, but the prevalence of
the drug on campus dissuaded his worries.
"It's not like people are pressuring you
to do it, you just don't see any downside to
doing it," he said.

"I think it is a dangerous problem."
Robert Ernst, medical director at Uni-
versity Health Services said UHS pre-
scribes stimulant medications to help
students with ADHD and Attention Deficit
Disorder. For these students, stimulants
are extremely beneficial, because they
increase alertness, focus and energy.
However, given the well-known poten-
tial for abuse - especially on college cam-
puses - UHS does not diagnose students
with ADHD or ADD. Instead, they rely on
the diagnoses and treatment plans devel-
oped by outside physicians. Students can
only obtain a prescription from UHS with
a confirmed diagnosis from their own phy-
sician and a history of successful treat-
ment with stimulants.
While some physicians with more expe-
rience feel comfortable diagnosing ADHD
with only a patient history, others rely on
surveys or questionnaires developed to
help physicians diagnose the disease.
"Increasingly, (physicians) are believ-
ing that students can give the right
answers on a survey to make it sound like
ADHD," Ernst said. "It was because of sit-
uations like that we decided we didn't feel
comfortable making that diagnosis based
upon this survey."
For students diagnosed outside the Uni-
versity, Ernst said UHS still takes precau-
"This is as controversial as it gets on col-
lege campuses, and many colleges' health
services have a 'just say no' approach to

this," Ernst said. "We don't look
our role to make the diagnosis and
treatment, but welcome the oppc
to establish continuity relationshi
students who have an established
sis and are already stable on a regil
Even for students who demon
legitimate need for medication, ar
prescription is required to obtai
Stimulants are classified as S
II drugs in the U.S. under the Co
Substances Act. The U.S. Drug E
ment Administration heavily r
these drugs based on their poten
"Any time you have a Schedule
trolled substance,
you are going. to
have a lot of (legal
Gwedolyn Chivers,
director of the UHS
Pharmacy, said.
In recent years,
some physicians
have started diag-
nosing students
with ADHD and
Attention Defi-
cit Disorder once
they get to college,
despite the fact
that these disorders
should manifest by
the age of seven in
most patients. This _
inconsistency "con-
founds" many col-
lege health service
clinicians, Ernst
"We feel uncom-
fortable malt-
ing the diagnosis,
because it's just not
the general notion
that people pres-
ent as adults, although that's incrc
becoming the situation - adding
concern that these are being used t
the drugs or used for competitive
tage instead of for an established
sis," Ernst said.
Students taking Adderall withou
scription - or who take the medic
performance enhancer, instead o
ment for a condition - risk a range
to serious side effects, includingc
ing sleep, affecting appetite -tw
common side affects - and heart
"I've seen students come in an
ent with cardiac arrhythmia and d
after a couple of follow up questio
they had borrowed a couple Adder
lets from a friend," Ernst said.
Controversy arose in Februar

at it as Richard Fee, a student at Greensboro Col- si
initiate lege in North Carolina, died after becoming of
artunity addicted to Adderall and other medica- r
ps with tions, which were repeatedly prescribed m
diagno- despite protests from Fee's parents that he e
ment." did not have ADHD. According to The New
strate a York Times, Fee's addiction may have con- m
monthly tributed to his suicide, though "few people s
n more who misuse stimulants devolve into psy- h
chotic or suicidal addicts." t
chedule Some students feel it's safe to take sa
ntrolled another person's prescription, since their (t
Enforce- friend with the prescription does not expe-
egulates rience any side affects. Ernst said every fu
atial for patient responds differently, so students ca
are putting themselves at great risk by tak-
II con- ing these drugs. d
"If I'm sitting next to you
in the library and we're
both doing work, but I'm
doing my work a little bit
faster and a little less
distracted, nobody will
be able to notice."
- Kinesiology freshman Andrew
easingly Andrew said he felt "no significant p
to our alteration" in his physical well-being on p
:o divert Adderall. While on the drug, he said he of
advan- sometimes forgets to eat or drink, so he
diagno- keeps a water bottle and snack nearby, just p
in case. a
at a pre- one of the most severe symptoms of s
ine as a the drug - which is intended to keep the
f treat- body focused - was that Andrew found it oz
of mild difficult to sleep after taking the drug. In re
disrupt- contrast, once the drug wore off, Andrew tI
to more experienced a "crash" - he counteracts ty
palpita- with a cup of coffee. ti
The UHS physicians are aware that
id pres- many students prescribed these medica- e
lisclose, tions do not take them on a consistent c
ins, that basis, creating the potential for a surplus. m
rall tab- When students come in asking for the re
maximum quantity of pills, Ernst said he p
y when and other physicians will often become tI

uspicious and enter into a "negotiation"
ver the medication to "come up with a
ealistic quantity," where they try to deter-
ine how many pills a student really needs
ach month.
"We know that students don't take these
edicines all the time when they're pre-
cribed, and when someone is reliable for a
igh quantity, we start (to) wonder if this is
o create a surplus for distribution," Ernst
aid. "Afterthree to five visits, we can start
o) feel pretty comfortable negotiating."
Ernst is seriously concerned about the
uture for prescription drugs on college
"I do believe the misuse of prescription
rugs will continue to become an increas-
ing prevalent prob-
lem - and I think
college campuses
will be 'ground
zero' for that type of
Students misus-
ing prescription
stimulants not*only
face physical side
effects, but also
expose themselves
to major legal con-
sequences if caught.
When asked about
these consequences,
Andrew was uncon-
cerned. He could
not remember a sin-
gle case of someone
being arrested or
even questioned for
prescription- drug
"I guess it's a
'strength in num-
bers' type situation
... I'm not the only
erson using it, there's so many other peo-
le. One person is not going to get singled
ut," he said.
Diane Brown, University Police spokes-
erson, said campus police very rarely
rrest and prosecute individuals for pre-
cription drug abuse.
In 2011, there were only 102 drug arrests
n campus - compared to 314 alcohol
elated arrests or citations - according to
he University's most recent annual safe-
y report. It's not known what amount of
hose arrests relate to Adderall.
There is currently one drug recognition
xpert in the University Police. In most
ases, however, the University Police's
nain responsibility is to assure students
eceive proper medical attention when
rescription drugs present a danger to
heir health, Brown said.

For the purposes of the article, some student names have been changed or omitted.

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