Students use stimulants to get the grade

Posted on 28 April 2010 by Marissa Evans

cover piece with bottle

The NCAA finals might be over but Marquette students are preparing for their own set of finals. With papers, readings, constant studying and late nights in Raynor Memorial Library coming soon, students will be doing all they can to pass their finals and classes with flying colors. For some, that includes taking stimulants, or “performance enhancers” to study.

Typically prescribed for attention-deficit and learning disorders, stimulants like Adderall, Concerta and Ritalin are increasingly becoming the tool of choice for students looking to meet deadlines and get the best grades possible.

“I only take it when I really need to get something done, maybe the day before a paper,” said a male freshman student in the College of Business Administration, who agreed to speak to The Warrior on the condition of anonymity.

The student said this semester was the first he tried “performance enhancers” to help him study, and said he buys whatever types of stimulant pills he can from students who have prescriptions.

He said although he mainly uses the drug to study, he occasionally uses it recreationally as well.

“I know people who are way more into it than I am. I have done it recreationally, to party too, but not all the time,” he said.

While the student said he usually buys one pill at a time, around high-stress times of the year, like midterms or finals, the demand for pills goes up—and so do prices.

“Normally the price (for a pill) is about three or four dollars, but around midterms or finals, they’ll jack up the price and it’ll be about eight.” Despite price increases around peak test times, the student said he considers the transaction a good deal.

“It’s really pretty cheap,” he said. “If I can crank out a whole night of homework for four, six, or eight bucks, it’s totally worth it for me.” The student said he has taken one or more stimulant pills seven times this semester and estimates he has spent more than 50 dollars on the drugs.

While the student said the use of performance enhancers is widespread at Marquette, he doesn’t consider the abuse of drugs like Adderall, Ritalin or Concerta academically dishonest.

“No one is talking about it, but it seems anybody can get a prescription,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a problem;  academically dishonest, no. If people want it, they can get it.”

Stimulants used by students to study such as Adderall are in the amphetamines family, while others such as Concerta, and Ritalin are in the ethylphenidate family. Both groups are known for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Adderall is typically prescribed to children and adults who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is seen as a stimulant for the brain by controlling impulses and regulating behavior and attention. It influences the availability of neurotransmitters in the brain, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Classified by the FDA as a Schedule II drug due to its high potential for abuse and severe psychological or physical dependency, it is still currently accepted for medical use. The Schedule II drug category consists of opium, cocaine, methadone, amphetamines, and methamphetamines.

Abuse among students who do have a prescription for drugs like Adderall and Concerta does exist, and often involves a student manipulating the prescription in order to deal to those without one. One underclassman male student in the College of Communication who requested anonymity said he routinely re-fills his Concerta prescription for his Dyslexia and ADHD so he can sell his pills non-prescribed students.

“I don’t think of it as a big deal,” he said. “People know I have the resources to get it.” The student said he often checks up with customers to see how well the stimulant worked and has between ten and fifteen freshman friends and clients. Students who approach him for pills often have “the voice in their head that tells them to get something done, ‘or else,’’ he said. “(They think) this medicine can help me get it all done.”

He said he has also seen some purchase Concerta because “they like how they feel when they’re on it” especially when taken at parties.

Although “performance enhancers” like Concerta do not improve intelligence, the student said it does, “enhance your drive to get it all done.”

During times where he has taken the pill to study, he has experienced a loss of appetite, is unsociable, very focused and quiet. He advises students who buy from him to take the drug to study and while they are taking the test as well.

“It’s an association thing,” he said. Studying with stimulants does occur at Marquette and continues to be a growing trend with college students across the country.The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in an April 2009 report found of the 28,027 full-time college students between the ages of 18 and 22 surveyed they were twice as likely to use the amphetamine drug Adderall without prescription as those who had not been in college at all or were only part-time students. In 2008, the study found that full-time college students who had used Adderall non medically “were almost three times more likely to use marijuana, eight times more likely to use cocaine, eight times more likely to use tranquilizers non medically, and five times more likely to use pain relievers non medically.”

Although many students do not think using of stimulants to study is illegal, if students are caught, there are legal penalties.

“We get involved when it comes to finding people in possession of a controlled substance without a prescription,” said Officer Richard Lopez of the Milwaukee Police Department. According to Lopez, arrests and criminal charges for possession are the big things when it comes to non-prescribed drugs. According to Wisconsin state laws, those convicted of simple possession can receive a sentence under state law of drug treatment rather than jail time, and probation may be available to first-time offenders for more serious offenses. In addition, for Wisconsin, possessors can be fined between $1000 and $10,000, with the average jail time being between six months to three and a half years. There is also a mandatory driver’s license suspension for a minimum of six months and a maximum of five years for all drug offenses.

In addition to legal ramifications of abusing the pills, there are also some severe health ones as well. The FDA finds that non-prescribed, illegal use of Adderall can result in “rapid heartbeat palpitations, increased blood pressure, restlessness, insomnia, seizures, depression, headache and stroke,” with long term affects including liver problems and addiction. Students, who use Adderall without a prescription, may need to take central nervous system depressants such as pain relievers or tranquilizers to counteract the stimulant effects of Adderall.

Prolonged levels of a high attention span that occur when stimulants are taken repeatedly can
result in a ‘speed crash’. A speed crash, in medical terms follows the high level of energy originally felt, and leaves the person feeling nauseous, irritable, depressed or extremely exhausted. The FDA has found that those who take the drug for actual medical purposes have fewer side effects.

In addition, the NSDUH, found that nearly 90 percent of non-presciption full-time college students who used Adderall in the past month were also binge alcohol users.

Bucket of Pills

More than half were heavy alcohol users. A 23-year- old female graduate student at Marquette who also agreed to speak to The Warrior on the condition of anonymity, said many students in her program also use performance enhancing drugs like Adderall. While she said she does not use the drug, the students she knows who take it do not have a prescription.. Usually using it the night before an exam, students who use them tell her their ability to study and retain information is increased.

“A normal person can study for five hours and absorb a certain amount of material, but if you’re on Adderall and study those same five hours, it’s the most intense five hours of your life…it just gives you that edge, that intense ability to concentrate for more extended periods of time.”

With academic programs where students are ranked creating a particularly competitive situation many students feel the need to do whatever they need to do to get the best grades possible to get the highest rank.

“It’s not that people are proud of it, they just do what they need to do to get the grade,” said the student.

by Marissa Evans and Katelyn Ferral
marissa [email protected]

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Brandon Says:

    Wow, this is a great piece of investigative journalism. Fascinating and saddening at the same time.

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