Saturday, January 19th, 2019

Study Drugs

Posted on November 12, 2016 in News
By USM Free Press

By Colin Cundy

College students around the country are acclimating to the difficulties of a new semester replete with new courses, new professors and other difficulties. Some of these difficulties are not so subtle. Full course loads, in addition to extracurricular commitments and part-time jobs are often combined with the knowledge that this most recent semester will sink them further into debt. Some students are turning to non-medical uses of stimulants. Stimulants are a branch of pharmaceuticals that, warranted or not, are also known by another name: study drugs.

Stimulants, also known as study drugs, is the classification for drugs such as Adderall, Ritalin and Focalin. These drugs can increase alertness, attention and energy, as well as elevate blood pressure, heart rate and respiration.

According to Diane Geyer, coordinator of Substance Abuse Clinical Services, when an individual who has Attention Deficit Disorder takes their medication as prescribed, the medication will have a calming effect. However, some students find ways to access it without having to get a prescription.

A student at USM, who wished to remain anonymous, relayed an anecdote about a student who took stimulants to get high with friends, and instead only calmed down. “While everyone else was getting high,” she said. “He was just sitting there calmly.” This  kind of reaction suggests that perhaps the student did, in fact, have an attention deficit disorder that was undiagnosed.

However, this is just an anecdote. One isolated instance where the misuse of a controlled substance may have helped someone self diagnose. When the facts are considered it becomes clear why  self medicating without a prescription is a risk.  

According to, non-medical uses of stimulants can lead to cardiac problems, organ damage, addiction, pulmonary difficulty, seizures, heart attack, stroke and even death. Geyer also noted that improper use can also cause hostility, paranoia, malnutrition, sleep deprivation and more.

Whether these so-called “study drugs” even bring about improved cognitive performance is a questionable premise.

“Studies have shown that students who do not  have ADHD and use these drugs in high school or college have lower GPAs,” Geyer said.  

So why do students feel they need to take stimulants when the potential benefits are dubious?

Another student, who also wished to remain anonymous, reported that his one-time roommate underwent severe mood swings when taking the drug. In both these cases, these students had prescriptions. While the use of stimulants is on the rise.

Research suggests that many drastically overestimate the rates of use to justify their own use according to the Medicine Abuse Project. Every student interviewed had stories explained that taking this drug has more to do with cash strapped students trying sell a plentiful resource.

According, there were 21 million stimulant prescriptions for Americans 12-17 in 2011

So why do students feel the need to take stimulants? If it’s to keep up with their course load, should it be enough to know that most users actually have lower GPAs? Is it for recreational uses? If so, perhaps it’s enough to learn of the potential side effects and risks associated with such uses. The urge to get ahead though is strong – no one wants to get left behind and if taking a pill can keep you on track, despite there being no reason to believe it will, many are willing to do just that.

Within the USM community students who feel they might be struggling with addiction, or need mental help guidance, which could benefit from treatment can turn to USM’s Health and Counseling offices on the Gorham and Portland campuses. If they have turned to these substances on their own and their use has become a problem, these same offices are available.

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