It’s rough out there for a student, especially if you’re a student who is also working part-time. Sometimes, you need a little help. A student spoke to Cougar News on a condition of anonymity.
She’s taking four classes this semester and working part-time in a restaurant. Her classes start in the morning and continue until mid-afternoon. After a mind-numbing six hour onslaught of new information, she heads home to get ready for work.
At the restaurant, she endures demanding diners with impossible expectations. Her co-workers often slack, making her job more difficult. After a busy day, the only thing she wants to do when she gets home is sleep…but she can’t. It’s 11:30 p.m. and she has a six-page research paper due in the morning.
Enter study drugs.
Drug use among college students is extremely common and has been well documented for decades. This type of drug use though, is somewhat of a novelty. It seems that young academics are now turning up, not to zone out from the milieu of college responsibilities, but rather, to zone in.
Study drugs, otherwise known as cognitive enhancing drugs or neuro-enhancers, are becoming common place in higher education.
In a 2003 report led by Sean Esteban McCabe of the Substance Abuse Research Center at the University of Michigan, the percentage of healthy students using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes ranges from zero to twenty-five percent, depending on the college.
Adderall, which is usually prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, is the most prominent study drug.
Student reviews are favorable and it has made a name for itself for enhancing focus, mental clarity and improving memory. Students also cite increase in productivity as a common effect.
‘Addie’ as it has playfully been dubbed, isn’t the only neuro-enhancer students are turning to for their mid-term and finals week cram sessions.
Several other prescription drugs are popping up including Ritalin, Concerta, and Provigil to name a few. Students who have experimented with these drugs say the results and benefits are real. The question is, are they safe?
“If you take these kinds of drugs, they can cause heart problems, you can get addicted to them, so you build up a tolerance to them, you can get depressed, you can get agitated, you can have problems with anger and irritability, anxiety,”said Larry Shallert, Assistant Director of the Mental Health Program at College of the Canyons.
“This doesn’t make you smarter, these kinds of drugs. They may make you concentrate and focus on things, you may have felt like you did better on a test because of that, but the fact of the matter is, you probably didn’t, you probably just focused more. ”
Those who take Adderall and drugs like it are also prone to becoming side-tracked. Stories of students organizing their iTunes library for an hour or obsessively cleaning their rooms, instead of studying, are not unheard of.
Still, there are those who swear by it to boost their ability to study.
The student told us: “I had a large work load and it help me focus and get through studying…with four classes and a lot of homework, it’s kind of hard…I’m a big procrastinator…it takes me two hours longer to do an essay than it needs to, and it [Adderall] kind of just gets me focused…focused and ready to do it.”
Health experts like Shallert say the best way to boost cognition is to do it naturally. Be sure to get plenty of sleep and stay physically active. Health advocates also tout meditation and brain training games as a viable way to improve cognitive functions.