Study hard, not high

Lauren Gorla

With finals week only a few days away, many students are hitting the books, but the issue of using drugs to enhance study performance is becoming a hot topic.

“It’s a growing issue on college campuses.  I think in general in America we have a lot more prescription drugs that are out there now, so it’s become more of our culture in some ways,” Dave McDermott, administrative coordinator for the Office of Alcohol and Other Drugs Programs, said.

“Study drugs” like Ritalin, Dexedrine, Concerta and Adderall work by speeding up brain activity causing increased attention and energy that comes with elevated blood pressure, according to a document from the National Council on Patient Information and Education.

Students turn to these drugs especially during finals week to pull an all-nighter when studying or finishing a paper, McDermott said.

Although there is currently no data for drug use among Georgia Southern University students, McDermott plans on collecting data next semester.

“We’re hoping to collect some data in the spring to find out more about what our student use percentage is.  There has been some in the past, but it wasn’t very well worded in terms of whether students were connecting it to Adderall and other things so really the first time will be the spring,” McDermott said.

“A lot of (prescription drug users) get it from those friends who have prescriptions.  That’s probably the number one source.  The danger with that is you can get in huge trouble, and in a lot of states, including Georgia, it can be a felony, like selling a pill to a roommate or giving a pill to them,” McDermott said.

Abusing prescription drugs can lead to increases in blood pressure or heart rate, organ damage, addiction, seizures or a heart attack, according to the document from the National Council on Patient Information and Education.

“Every drug is going to have different side effects.  I think the most common effect with students is it’ll mess up their sleep cycle.  They’re thinking that it’s going to help them stay up all night and study, but then sometimes they’ll have a harder time sleeping, and then they end up getting to where they’re not rested for the exam,” McDermott said.

Other people will experience things like headaches or nausea, McDermott said.

It’s tough because there are some students who take (prescription drugs) for very legitimate reasons. They have a prescription. And then there are some students who take them on their own, McDermott said.

“If you do have a prescription it’s important to keep it secure and don’t leave it open in like a shared bathroom, someplace where someone has access to it.  Unfortunately some people also just take advantage of it and take it from their roommates,” McDermott said.

Many students have friends who choose to take prescription drugs during finals week to help them focus and get more work done.

“A lot of my friends take it.  They say that it helps them focus and stay up longer,” Stacia Fritz, sophomore pre-med major, said.  “A lot of times they don’t get hungry, and they’re just quiet and reserved.”

“My friend, when he took it, he showed me his handwriting when he’s not on (prescription drugs) and when he is, and it was a lot neater when he was on it,” Redesha Vaughn, sophomore general studies major.

A lot of people take it throughout the year so they can focus and get a lot done, Lauren Tribo, sophomore nursing major, said.

Brandon Lindsey, senior business major, has a prescription for Adderall and takes it on a regular basis.

“For me, I notice that I get a lot more done, and I’m more productive,” Lindsey said.  “I know some people when they take it, it calms them down and doesn’t really make them jittery.”

“I think faculty needs more education on (prescription drugs) because I’m not sure I would recognize the symptoms,” Dr. Robert Shanafelt, department of anthropology, said.

The best way to stay ahead and be productive is to develop healthy study habits, McDermott said.

McDermott said, “I would tell them that they’ll probably get more out of healthy study habits because when you introduce prescription drugs, you’re dealing with side effects that you don’t know what they’re going to do for you and making assumptions about how it’s going to interact with you and you don’t necessarily always know.  It’s much better to just find healthy study habits.  Should you study hard? Absolutely, but you also have to make sure you’re getting enough sleep and eating well.”