Wagner alumna Heidi T., who did not wish to give her last name, used to sit for days on end in Bobst Library, crafting schedules and to-do lists four years ago. She said she started taking aids to help her with her packed academic schedule and social life. Three months later, she found herself in a rehabilitation center.
Heidi is one of many college students across the nation who illicitly use prescription attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medication to help manage her heavy work load.
According to a new study published in the Journal of American College Health, 34 percent of 1,811 students polled at a large southeastern public university said they have illegally used ADHD medication, primarily during times of high academic stress. On average, students said they found the drugs to reduce fatigue and increase reading comprehension, interest, cognition and memory. The study further reported that the majority of students knew little about the drugs and found them both stigma-free and
easy to procure.
CAS junior Jeff Levin, who has witnessed student-to-student selling at NYU, said study aids are not hard to find.
“It is easy to find, both through students and physicians,” Levin said.
A Georgetown sophomore, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he often uses study aids to help him focus on larger assignments. He added that his use is need-based, and he will only take study aids when he has a significant amount of work to do. Still, he admitted that his use has become more habitual.
“Definitely, there is a high from unlocking this potential from within yourself,” he said.
The drugs are amphetamines and are addictive. Classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as Schedule II substances, these drugs have legitimate medical use but have a high potential for abuse.
Heidi said she started taking study aids to help her do it all. As a working Wagner student with a social life, her schedule, she said, was impossibly packed. When she tried some of her roommate’s expired Ritalin prescription, however, her day took on a new ease.
“I took one 25mg pill at 6 a.m. on my way to work,” Heidi said. “And it fueled me all day.”
It was this feeling that drove her to continue using and to eventually upping her daily dose from 25mg to 300mg, at the height of her addiction, said Heidi who later founded passporttorecovery.com.
However, Brunhild Kringm, associate director of the Counseling and Wellness Services of the NYU Health Center, said the idea that stimulant medications are useful aids for studying is an urban myth.
She said the risk for the development of a dependence on stimulants increases when the person takes more than daily prescribed amount or takes this medication without suffering from ADHD.
“Students who have been diagnosed and successfully treated for ADHD as children or adolescents are required to provide copies of updated diagnostic assessments done previously,” Kringm added.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Dec. 4 print edition. Kevin Burns is a staff writer. Email him at [email protected]