By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Thousands of college students in Brooklyn got through their final exams last month by cramming all night and using stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin to stay awake, according to US Senator Charles Schumer, who is raising the alarm over the misuse of the drugs.
Schumer, who noted that drugs like Adderall and Ritalin are meant for use by patients with attention deficit disorder, are instead being overused by college students trying to cope with the pressure to perform well in class.
In Brooklyn, an estimated 10,889 students use stimulants like Adderall for non-medical purposes, Schumer said. The problem is even worse in Manhattan, according to Schumer, who said an estimated 34,300 students use stimulants without a prescription.
New York’s senior senator has launched an effort to make it harder for students in New York State to get their hands on the stimulants, called “study drugs.”
Schumer has asked New York colleges and universities to introduce new standards that would make it more difficult for college students to acquire amphetamine-based drugs without a legitimate diagnosis and prescription.
Studies have shown that stimulants, which are intended for those with Attention Deficit (and Hyperactivity) Disorder (ADD/ADHD), are widely abused on college campuses and that between 15% and 35% of college students nationwide take these drugs illicitly as a study tool.
The side affects are potentially dangerous, Schumer said. Use of these drugs can lead to depression, anxiety, and psychosis, he said citing health studies. And when combined with marijuana or alcohol, a drug like Adderall can result in hypertension, seizures, and an increase in blood pressure. Even if the drugs are not being abused, side effects can include lack of appetite, increased blood pressure, headache, dry mouth, insomnia and weight loss, Schumer said.
Schumer wrote a letter to Nancy Zimpher, president of the State University of New York, and Laura Anglin, president of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, to ask that New York’s public and private colleges voluntarily introduce tighter controls on the accessibility of stimulants. Schumer also suggested that colleges and universities not prescribe Adderall and similar drugs in-house.
“When used properly to treat a legitimately diagnosed attention disorder, drugs like Adderall and Ritalin can help students focus and learn, but all too often these cases are the minority on college campuses. Plain and simple: using Adderall as a study drug is academic doping, and what’s more, it can lead to abuse and serious negative effects like depression, anxiety, and in some cases, psychosis,” said Schumer.
“That’s why I’m asking New York colleges to help raise awareness of the potential for abuse and tighten the controls on the diagnosis and prescription of these drugs, by looking at what resources they have and restructuring their current programs to crack down on fakers. This is a matter of student health, safety, and academic integrity, and we need to look at all the options when it comes to keeping potentially addictive stimulants out of the hands of our students who don’t really need them,” Schumer said.
Full time college students ages 18-22 are twice as likely to use Adderall nonmedically than those not in college, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services called “Nonmedical Use of Adderall among Full-Time College Students.” Nearly 90 percent of the full-time college students who had used Adderall for non-medical reasons in the past year also were binge alcohol drinkers and more than half were heavy alcohol users, the study found.