Ivy League students have admitted to using ADHD medication as a way to increase their focus and levels of concentration, according to a new study just out from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Such an admission has led to questions about how colleges can crack down on students who are misusing stimulants for academic rather than recreational purposes.
Nearly one in five students have reported using a prescription stimulant while studying, and if that trend was not alarming enough, 69 percent of those who misused stimulants did so to write an essay, while 66 percent of students involved in the study were inclined to use prescription stimulants to study for an exam. 27 percent used prescription stimulants such as ADHD medication to take a test. There are now concerns that some students in high school and college may be faking symptoms in order to acquire prescriptions for ADHD medications such as Ritalin or Adderall.
“Should physicians become more cautious or conservative when newly diagnosing ADHD in teens?” wonders Dr. Andrew Adesman, MD, FAAP, who serves as chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York. He also suggests that students in the teenage to early adulthood age range should also be advised of the serious legal and physical repercussions of the consumption of these medications without a physical need for them or of selling or giving the medications away. He wonders if advising children and teens of these potential repercussions could ease some of the rising use of these medications among Ivy League students.
Certainly, the pressure is on Ivy League students to be successful; they are often inundated with assignments, lab work, or studying for exams. It is small wonder that this age bracket, in particular, would feel the need to actually make use of stimulants such as ADHD medication in order to get through the heavy workloads. However, while some may struggle with ADHD already, it is important to realize ADHD medication is designed for use by those who actually have ADHD. Those who insist on using the drugs when they do not require it may find that their biochemistry is significantly impacted by it.
The question will certainly rise as to what to do at colleges where students are choosing to use ADHD medication to get through crunch times at school. The stance on recreational drug use remains clear, particularly if students live in residence. Marijuana continues to be a controlled substance. However, what will end up happening with these students who have prescriptions for ADHD medication? Are doctors going to become even more thoroughly scrutinized to determine whether or not certain criteria were met in every single circumstance where a student has been found to use ADHD medication to get through exams or major assignments? Is information about medical conditions going to be more tightly controlled so that students and other individuals will not be able to access the information they need when they are newly diagnosed? Granted, perhaps information about medical conditions is too easily accessible online, but by the same token, some individuals are reluctant to ask for help from their doctors. The internet is a thoroughly valuable tool to these individuals. Regardless of what occurs in the immediate fallout of this discovery of Ivy Leaguers using ADHD medication to get through heavy workloads, the questions will continue to linger.
By Christina St-Jean