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Ritalin and Adderall abused by college students

Staff Writer

Published: Thursday, March 4, 2010

Updated: Friday, March 12, 2010 10:03


ANNA SCHRECK/Northern Iowan

Ritalin, a prescription drug commonly used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder, has been abused by student to cram for exams.

College students have gone to great lengths to stretch the hours of their day to meet the demands of studying.  Prescription drugs, such as Ritalin and Adderall, medications used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder, are prevalently abused by students on college campuses in their efforts to keep up with academic studies.   

According to Mark Rowe, the substance abuse services coordinator at the Wellness and Recreation Center at the University of Northern Iowa, heard students use Ritalin recreationally without a prescription as a means of staying awake and study through the night and cram for upcoming tests.  

"Ritalin is a common treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder and is occasionally prescribed for narcolepsy," he said. "It has become one of the most abused prescription drugs and has earned the street names: vitamin R, cramming drug and R ball."

Rowe is aware of Ritalin abuse in the name of latenight studying for continuous energy. The drug affects chemicals in the brain and the nerves that factor into impulse control and hyperactivity. Students may also be using Ritalin as a mixer with alcohol for the effect it creates to extend partying. 

"It would be naïve to think this doesn't take place on our campus," Rowe said. "It's important to be prescribed Ritalin (in order to use it); if you are on other medications and take this drug, you don't know how the multiple drugs will interact, and it can be dangerous."

Cory Badura, pharmacy director at UNI's Student Health Clinic, stresses to his patients the importance of protecting their dosages. 

"When I counsel patients, I tell students to not share (the prescription drugs) and to protect them; keep them safe and make sure none of the pills disappear," he said.  "It's a felony to take Ritalin without a prescription (along with taking other unprescribed drugs)."

According to Badura, Ritalin allows the person to focus on the task at hand with little distraction. However, there are many side effects: dry mouth, chance of negatively affecting the heart, agitation, nervousness, jitteriness, constipation and  insomnia when taken without a prescription. 

An article titled "Recreational use of Ritalin on college campuses" from the  U.S. Department of Education has recognized the recent inflammation of this particular drug abuse and addresses the issue.  A 2008 study of 2,087 college students showed that 5.3 percent of the students have used Ritalin in a nonmedical fashion.

 "These types of prescriptions are controlled because of their potential for addiction, the effects — more energy, leads those who abuse the drug to develop an addictive tendency," Badura said. 

Some students use Adderall, a central nervous system stimulant used in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, as a recreational stimulant. 

"I had a final last semester, and I took one Adderall, a 15 mg pill at 11 p.m. that night," said one student who wished to remain anonymous. "I was kept up for two days and my sleeping system was messed up."

"Finally, on the third night at 3 a.m., I was able to sleep," the student continued.

The student received the supplement from a friend who was prescribed Adderall.  The friend gave his dosage to the student, and offered him pills whenever he needed to stay up late. 

"I popped the pill, waited for it to kick in and went to work," the student said. "I didn't have any bad side effects or crash, though my sleeping schedule was bad for a couple days."

The student noted they did not plan on using the drugs again.

"I don't think I would do this (take Adderall or other prescription drugs) again, as it was only for a final grade."

Rowe urges students to be safe by taking only personally prescribed drugs.  

"There are definite health risks," Rowe said. "Many students have the perception, ‘It can't hurt to use recreationally, since Ritalin is prescribed: it must be safe.'  However, this is false; as with any doctor prescription, (prescribing medication) is an informed decision."

"Doctors take into consideration that person and the dosage that's right for them, and when a person does it on their own, the person doesn't know their dosage or understand its effects," Rowe added.   

If you or someone that you know uses adderall or ritalin and would like to share the story anomously send an email to:

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