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The stress of college and the heavy workload that comes along with it pushes students to find new ways to focus and learn. A pressing issue seen on American college campuses is the misuse of nonmedical ADHD stimulant medication. College students are exposed to a lot of misinformation about nonmedical ADHD prescription use due to popular myths that say stimulants are “Smart doping” and are therefore helpful to students struggling with academic pressures. This pressing issue is one that should not be taken lightly yet it seems to have very little weight on college campuses and in the media. Ask any college student abusing these types of drugs and they will swear their success to the stimulants that helped them stay up till 3 in the morning cramming for an exam. This is very problematic. The little awareness and misinformation of popular myths are fueling the already flaming fire of nonmedical stimulant drug abuse on college campuses in America.
The nonmedical use of prescription ADHD medication is becoming an increasing problem on college campuses. This is very problematic because students are unaware of the affects and illegality of taking nonmedical prescription stimulants. These drugs work by increasing dopamine amounts in the brain, dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with attention, movement, and motivation, which help reduce hyperactivity and impulsive behaviors. These drugs do not give you the knowledge they simply give you the push you need, that is why so many college students are on the hunt for stimulant drugs. Most students buy these drugs under the table they never read the side effects that could potentially harm them, some of these side effects include; insomnia, decreased appetite, and increased heart rate. In a report done by Brown University about the number of visits to the emergency department, “The report found that the number of ED visits for nonmedical use of ADHD medicine among adults 18 and over has tripled from 5,215 in 2005 to 15,585 in 2010” (Price 2). This dramatic growth shows that the misuse of these drugs is threatening the health of students, and needs immediate attention. A study done about the trend of the word Adderall on twitter around the time of college exams concluded that, “the most common side effects were sleep deprivation (5.0%) and loss of appetite (2.6%)” (Hanson 1). Students not prescribed these drugs are experiencing these symptoms that can not only harm their health but harm their mental mindset as well.
Popular myths have led to misinformed college users. These common myths refer to nonmedical use of stimulants as academic performance enhancers or “smart drugs.” They are sometimes even referred to as an academic pick-me-up, for a student struggling academically. Not only does the media promote such behavior but even some practicing physicians. Dr. Brian Doyle, a notable physician, said, “It doesn’t seem to be causing too much trouble since most students use the drugs not to get high but to function better. When exams are over, they go back to normal and stop abusing the drugs.” (Arria & Dupont 417). Assumptions like that are not only based off no evidence but are also encouraging students to misuse stimulants drugs. This is a physician with a license to practice encouraging misusing prescription medicine, that alone should discredit his statement. In the same study monitoring the trend of the word Adderall on twitter it was concluded that, “The most common substances mentioned with Adderall were alcohol (4.8%)” (Hanson 1). This is a scientific study that disproves the doctor’s assumption showing that students are using the medicine to assist there studies along with their partying habits.
Common myths have left students with little knowledge about the consequences of their actions both physically and legally. Due to the misuse of nonmedical stimulants pharmaceutical manufacturers are now required by the FDA to add a “black box” warning label. The label warns both patients and physicians of the following; “sudden death and serious cardiovascular adverse events, a high potential for abuse, and the possibility of people obtaining amphetamines for non-therapeutic use or distribution to others.” (Arria & Dupont 418). This was put into place to warn of the very serious health risks and highly addictive traits these medications possess. However, it does not mention the serious legal consequences that students may face. Selling prescription stimulants can land you 1-5 years in prison and possessing un-prescribed stimulants could land you up to a year in a county jail. The Los Angeles County of Defense provides a scenario where a student has a Ziploc bag or a prescription bottle with a peeled label and is caught by police, the student will be facing charges for suspicion of selling a controlled substance. (“Prescription Drug Use”). Students are oblivious to the consequences their very serious actions may face. If more students were aware of the serious health and legal consequences they might think twice before selling or buying nonmedical prescription stimulants.
After hearing all of the facts, you may wonder how can we fix such a wide spread issue? I have a few steps to help remedy this very serious issue. First, we must educate the users and nonusers on the serious health risks and legal consequences of possessing, selling, and taking nonmedical stimulants. This can be done by mandatory online classes taken before being enrolled in a college or institution. Before I was allowed to start my education at Converse I had to take an alcohol education course, this would be the same thing just for nonmedical prescription stimulants and even other prescription medications that are abused. This would force students to face the facts and realize the severity of their actions but it would also education and persuade nonusers to stay away or think twice. Second, we should promote and fund coalitions like CPAMM (Coalition to Prevent ADHD Medication Misuse). This is a very real coalition that is doing research, addressing the problem, and finding new ways to prevent this issue. They hold meetings and summits around the United States to shed light on the importance of this issue. By promoting this collation on college campuses, holding meetings, and publicizing this issue through the coalition we could educate and prevent this issue. I have presented two very real solutions I believe can stop this problem troubling the youth of America.
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