Studying the Stereotype of Study Drugs

Kat Shuman

Note to reader: The following story contains accounts from students who share their experience with illegal study drugs. *Their names are fictitious in order to protect to their identity.

As finals week approaches, the Henderson library will be full day and night as students work to finish term papers and cram for final exams. Parking will be impossible, study rooms will be full and many students, feeling overwhelmed with their workload, will turn to study drugs in attempts to maximize their study time.

“Study drugs” such as dextroamphetamine-amphetamine (trade name Adderall), methylphenidate (Ritalin) and lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse) are abused worldwide and especially so on college campuses during the months of December and May, when the majority of colleges end their semesters with finals week.

Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse are completely legal with a prescription. However, when used by students without prescriptions, they become Class II drugs.

*Michael’s Story:

“I didn’t need to use in high school. I was probably a better student and studied more and not the night before the test.” Michael, a Georgia Southern student, recounts how his good study habits slipped away in college. He describes how he met new people in college and became more outgoing than he was in high school.

“I got lazy and started doing my homework later, and it all caught up to me eventually,” Michael said.

He, like other students in college, uses study drugs. Michael is not prescribed these medicines; he uses them because he believes they increase his focus and stamina when spending long nights in the library.

“I had a friend that told me that she was giving another friend Adderall, so I asked her for one,” Michael said.

That was the first time Michael used study drugs. He had lots of homework due the next day and a test, so he decided to stay up all night depending on Adderall to keep him awake.

“I didn’t feel tired. I felt pretty awake and felt like it was successful use of drugs,” Michael said.

An Academic View:

Georgia Southern professor, Dr. John Weaver, researches the posthuman condition, drugs and education, and popular culture. In his book, “Educating the Posthuman”, Dr. Weaver cautions against the use of medicines like Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse. He believes that students have become a very drug-oriented culture and a pawn in a pharmaceutical game.

“Their [students] brains have become a market niche for pharmaceuticals and their bodies the new home for a little pill that removes the spirit but helps them past a test” (Weaver, 54).

Weaver encourages students that “there are better ways to deal with a heavy workload.”

*Mary’s Story:

Mary, another Georgia Southern student, used a friend’s leftover study drugs as her first time. She said that she “tried it, to try it.” She said she cleaned her whole room and was quite when she used study drugs for the first time. Mary has continued to use study drugs since then.

“It forces me to stay awake and be productive. I think it’s addicting. I have to focus and force myself not to do it. I can’t just take it whenever. That would be abuse,” Mary said.

Mary believes that study drugs should be used when one needs an extra boost when work piles up.

A Medical View:

Medical Director and Staff Physician at GS Student Health Services, Dr. Brian DeLoach, answered several questions about study drugs, such as, if Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse were linked to adult drug abuse.

“These medications, especially when taken by persons who DO NOT have a diagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder [ADHD], do have the potential to be abused, and these individuals may develop tolerance, dependency and addiction to these medications,” DeLoach said in an email.

DeLoach said that regardless of the type of medication, no one should ever take a prescription medication that was not prescribed for them specifically. These types of medications could have consequences such as:

1. Severe cardiac (ie, heart) side effects, increase the chance for an individual to have a seizure and have been associated with sudden death as well as depression, psychosis and violent or suicidal behaviors.

2. When taken by persons who do not really have ADHD, there is a much higher risk of that person developing an addiction to the medication and/or using it for its “upper” effects.

*Richard’s Story: Richard has ADD and ADHD. He is prescribed Adderall, but admits to selling it. Richard described his frustration with students who abuse study drugs.

“They [students who abuse] think Adderall will turn them into a supercomputer. That they can cram and ace an exam,” Richard said.

Richard said that it is a serious stereotype that students prescribed to Adderall only make good grades because of the drugs, but he claims Adderall helps people prescribed to the drug to do a normal amount of work in a normal amount of time.

Richard has had a few people ask to buy his Adderall. He admits that he has sold it before, when coerced by manipulative peers.

“Once people find out, they pressure you to let them get it. You don’t ever want to tell people that you take it. I was on campus, in the IT building somewhere, and I pulled my medicine out to take it. Some people jokingly asked for it, but like, they’re serious about it. People get really aggressive in a passive way…They force you into giving them one or selling them one.” Richard said.

A state law View:

Lieutenant Chris McBride works for the Criminal Investigations Department of Public Safety at Georgia Southern University. McBride said that under the Georgia State law, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription is a felony offense. One could go to prison more than a year and face a fine of more than one thousand dollars.

“Students think it helps them, but if you think it helps you, it’s as simple as going to doctor and get a prescription. It’s much easier that way,” McBride said.

*William’s Story:

“It is what it is, right? I‘m not an addict. I‘ve never had problems staying focused, but with finals comes stress; you have to take it.”

William, a Georgia Southern student, recounts how high school was more structured and had a lighter workload than college. The freedom of college and the necessity of learning time management can intensify a student’s pressure.

“I haven’t used yet this semester. I did last semester, to focus on finals week. It’s like I was hopping on the bandwagon, gonna see what’s it’s all about. It was in the heat of the moment. Like:

‘Do you want to have one?’

and I said,