The Rampant Abuse of Prescription Drugs as Study Aids Among Students

This weekend the New York Times ran a piece by Alan Schwartz on the rampant use of "good-grade pills" -- Adderall and other drugs that help students focus during tests and all-nighters. Adderall, of course, is prescribed to people with ADHD to help calm their minds, but it's being used by students in high-pressure academic environments to help them maintain focus on their work.

The abuse of these drugs is happening not only in New York private schools, but across the country, according to experts interviewed by Schwartz. A student from suburban Philadelphia who sells pills to his classmates said that at his school the drugs are being abused by "the quote-unquote good kids," the "A students, sometimes the B students, who are trying to get good grades."

But the drugs are potentially dangerous, for a variety of reasons:

The D.E.A. lists prescription stimulants like Adderall and Vyvanse (amphetamines) and Ritalin and Focalin (methylphenidates) as Class 2 controlled substances — the same as cocaine and morphine — because they rank among the most addictive substances that have a medical use. (By comparison, the long-abused anti-anxiety drug Valium is in the lower Class 4.) So they carry high legal risks, too, as few teenagers appreciate that merely giving a friend an Adderall or Vyvanse pill is the same as selling it and can be prosecuted as a felony....

[A]buse of prescription stimulants can lead to depression and mood swings (from sleep deprivation), heart irregularities and acute exhaustion or psychosis during withdrawal, doctors say. Little is known about the long-term effects of abuse of stimulants among the young. Drug counselors say that for some teenagers, the pills eventually become an entry to the abuse of painkillers and sleep aids.

Despite these dangers, will law enforcement ever crack down on these A and B students looking for a "bump" the same way they crack down on students in lower-income neighborhoods who do or deal drugs? And will parents realize the role their Ivy League expectations play in their children's drug habits?

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at June 11, 2012, 5:34am