As a licensed social worker now employed in the higher education setting, I have been trying to raise awareness about the dangers of the growing trend of students taking Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) medications to help concentrate for exams. I had heard friends in law school say that they took medications such as Ritalin and Adderall while preparing for the BAR exam; however, I have now become more aware of students in various undergraduate majors taking these pills.
Students would tell me that these pills helped them to focus and concentrate as they never had before. They felt it gave them an advantage and more of a chance at learning and remembering the content for their exams. What started out as something that only a few students engaged in once or twice a year during finals is increasing in not only the number of students taking them but also how often they are being used. A student told me that he did not think there was much risk because a lot of individuals take these drugs every day for their ADHD so they must be safe.
According to The Partnership at Drugfree.org, these “study drugs” are more of a concern than once thought.
Availability. Since so many students have a friend or two that takes ADHD medications, it is easy for students to get these pills. They tend to not be thought of as drugs, like marijuana is, thus making more students open to trying them. They view it as something to take that will help them in school, not for recreational purposes, which also convinces a lot of students to be more open to taking them.
Health Complications. I remember working with my elementary school clients when they were trying out a new medication for their ADHD. The medication almost always needed to be adjusted by the doctor to work to its full potential for the individual and it was always carefully monitored. Parents, teachers, and the school nurse would monitor the child to look for behavior changes, change in appetite, and any adverse effects. Students taking ADHD medication without a doctor’s supervision can have dangerous health consequences. Heart rate and blood pressure levels can rise and individuals can become addicted. The fact that many individuals do not see these pills as harmful or dangerous, especially since peers with ADHD take them every day, can lead to students taking these pills often making it harder to stop.
Ignored Drug. According to the Partnership at Drugfree.org, only 14% of teens stated that their parents had talked to them about the dangers of prescription medication. Parents need to have their children be aware that these drugs are dangerous and help them find ways to safely handle academic pressure.