Editorial, Opinion

STAFF EDIT: Filling RX needs

When the going gets tough on college campuses, the tough are increasingly getting going with the help of prescription stimulants. Study after study show that drugs like the brand-name Adderall and its generic derivatives are being used without prescriptions for students looking to stay awake longer and bolster their academic performance. With only two approved indications for use, the broadening use of such drugs is evidence of a growing culture that relies on the chemical boost to perform. And though the illegal use of psychostimulants is on the rise, the drugs shouldn’t be restricted from those who have been shown to really need them.
In a March 19, 2007 Daily Free Press article (‘Students turn to ‘study’ drugs to hold attentions,’ p. 1), students acknowledged the growing use of attention-increasing drugs, as researchers detailed the possible reasons behind it. According to a June 2, 2005 ABC News report, a leading doctor likened the growing habit to performance enhancing drugs, ‘almost like academic steroids.’ And indeed, the ‘study drugs’ provide hours of increased focus and concentration ‘-‘- perfect for all-night study binges.
But the effects of using these study drugs without prescription are still being learned, and most signs point to forming possible dependencies or addictions.
According to an April 20, 2004 University of Pennsylvania study, ‘people without attention problems in the first place are the ones more likely to develop a dependency on [ADD medications], especially if they are taking it every time they have a test or a midterm.’ Even students diagnosed with attention disorders should explore all their options before choosing to take medications, and students looking to use the drugs for an extra edge on the next midterm should steer clear of them altogether. As with any psychoactive substance, the risk of dependence is more worrisome than any condition it may relieve.
To combat the proliferation of psychostimulants, health care providers have taken steps to tighten regulations on prescribing the drugs. And rightly so. Adderall is readily accessible without a prescription from enterprising students on campuses nationwide, as any college student is aware, and new prescriptions are even given after answering a short questionnaire. But doctors must recognize when students are truly in need, and should not hesitate to administer the drugs to those who need it.

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