Finals week for college students seems like the most stressful time in their lives. It usually means pulling all-nighters to study for tests and finish up papers. In order to function with very little sleep, it also means ingesting as much caffeine as possible. There is a new alarming trend sweeping across a lot of college campuses. More and more students are turning to prescription drugs commonly used to treat ADHD which counselors with Avera McKennan warn could be a dangerous habit to start.
Ritalin, Dexedrine and Adderrall are some of the drugs commonly prescribed to children diagnosed with ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Counselor and Social Worker Sara Bennetts at the Avera McKennan Behavioral Health Clinic on 33rd and Cliff in Sioux Falls, describes how drugs, like Adderrall, help children with ADHD.
Bennetts says, "What it does is calms everything and soothes things. It turns down the volume on distractions, noise, and stuff going on in the head that need to be focused on and attended to. For someone who doesn't have ADHD and is taking those medications it magnifies that."
For those of us who are regular coffee drinkers you could equate that same rush as a shot of espresso instead of a regular cup of Joe. Eventually you know you will crash from the caffeine high. Same holds true for Adderrall. Bennetts says when you use prescription drugs as performance enhancers if could lead to an addiction because it affects your brain chemistry. Plus, it's a pleasurable effect.
Bennetts says, "We are talking about students who are trying to cram or become better students or do more. And they are getting short term results right away. They're like, wow, it worked! Let me do it again and then let me do it again and then I need to do it again and then I can't stop doing it. It is definitely changing the brain chemistry and it's going to have that effect and has the potential to be addictive physiologically and emotionally."
Bennetts says without a proper prescription you don't know how your body will react to the drugs. We all metabolize drugs differently.
She says, "What happens if you introduce it to your brain and you have a heart problem you didn't know about. Now you've over stimulated your central nervous system and have a heart attack. What's the benefit in that?"
Bennetts reminds us that there are always consequences even if you are getting short term benefit. In the end that step forward may lead you down a road of addiction which is a very dangerous and bumpy road to navigate.
Counselors say usage of performance enhancing drugs is more common place on college campuses than we think because most students don't openly admit to using them. Like steroids use in athletics, most would argue, it gives those students an unfair advantage over the ones playing by the rules.