The pressures of school performance often place college students in difficult situations, pushing them toward alternative methods to try to raise their grades. While performance-enhancing drugs are rampant in athletics, a recent study shows that in one Ivy League school, students are turning to these medications for similar reasons.
A few days ago, this study was revealed at the annual Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Vancouver, Canada. It showed that one in five students at an unnamed Ivy League school uses these drugs to increase performance on school work and exams. Andrew Adesman, the lead researcher for this study, conducted a poll of students at a an Ivy League campus he declined to reveal, and found that of all the students polled who had used these pills for tests, essays, and studying, about 40% did not think it was a form of cheating.
This kind of medication is often prescribed to patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and is aimed at helping these students achieve greater focus during lectures and on school work. The increase in ADHD medication entering college campuses could stem from the fact that in 2011, children diagnosed with ADHD in the U.S. reached 11%, an all-time high,according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also confirms that these numbers continue to rise.
The problems is that ADHD medications are reaching the hands of students who do not have an ADHD diagnosis, and some researchers say that students with ADHD are being forced into giving their peers the pills. Adesman also pointed out that this trend is not only prevalent in Ivy League schools, and that students in other colleges also partake of performance-enhancing drugs. He said that despite the honor codes that some schools put in place, several other institutions are unaware of this problem on their campus. He also stated that this type of misuse is happening at the high school level as well.
But the effects of these drugs could be a myth that many students who do not have an ADHD diagnosis are falling pray to. According to Sean Esteban McCabe, a research associate professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Research on Women and Gender, there is no guarantee that these drugs do improve student grades. Furthermore, studies show that the misuse of ADHD medications are mainly by students who are already suffering from poor grades as a result of drug or alcohol-related problems. In addition, these medications can have negative side effects, such as addiction, increased blood pressure and heart rate, as well as arrhythmia, which could lead to a stroke in severe cases.
The ongoing concern over these performance-enhancing drugs is also spurred by McCabe’s report that from 2005 to 2010, emergency room visits more than doubled as a result of stimulant misuse.
Adesman encouraged educators to raise awareness about this issue on high school and college campuses to make students aware of the legal consequences of these drugs. He also suggested that doctors be involved in this process, educating students on the health risks linked to stimulants.