College professor speaks on the long-term effects of study drugs

The draw of the drugs is most often being able to stay up for long periods of time; something especially beneficial for college students cramming for a final.

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIAT) — The phrase ‘there’s a pill for everything’ continues to ring true; for college students across the country, there’s even one believed to make you a better student.

Medications like Adderall, Vyvanse, and Ritalin are commonly abused in hopes of getting better grades. Studies show nationally, about 35 percent of college students have used the drugs without a prescription.

A prescription is required to obtain all the medications, but you can find the pills on the street for as cheap as $5.

News 4 spoke to local college students about the use of “study drugs,” and took a look at a Buffalo State study, which examines students opinion of the practice.

Latoya Smith told News 4 it’s not hard to find illicit Adderall on her campus.

“I definitely would know where to go,” she said.

The draw of the drugs is most often being able to stay up for long periods of time; something especially beneficial for college students cramming for a final.

“I’ve never taken it. It seems helpful when studying, that’s what I hear. It helps you focus. My one friend was telling me his friend took it and he read like a whole textbook in the night,” student Phyllip Stallard said.

Chair of the Psychology Department at Buffalo State, Prof. Jill Norvilitis, took a look at study drug abuse on their campus.

She interviewed 184 students.

“You really need something to like help you stay up, stay focused. You know it’s a battle for the A,” Smith, who admitted to illicitly using study drugs in the past, told News 4.

But according to Norvilitis’ research, the all-nighters study drugs can provide don’t always deliver.

“Both here at Buffalo State and elsewhere, students who use these drugs actually have lower grade point averages, not higher. And there’s no evidence that it helps them do any better in school,” she said.

And of course, there’s the health risks.

“I don’t know much about it, that’s really what might make it dangerous without knowing the potential side effects,” local college student Patrick Weir said.

“From a health standpoint, it’s very dangerous,” Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein told News 4.

“These are stimulant medications and so they not only cause mood elevation and increasability to stay awake and alert while those drugs are in effect, they can also cause some serious other health consequences,” Burstein continued.

Using drugs like Adderall without a legitimate need for the medication can cause sudden changes in blood pressure, over exhausting the heart, and even death.

Most students we spoke to view study drugs as potentially dangerous, but not thatbad.

“It helps them not the crash and helps them study throughout the night, it gives them a lot of energy,” college student Johnny Campanella said.

And finding them?

“It’s easier than you think, and honestly, it’s a booming business. Because whoever has it, they can sell however much they want, like $20 a pill, it’s very common,” Smith told News 4.

17% of students Norvilitis surveyed reported using “study drugs” without a prescription
45% reported having a friend who uses “study drugs” without a prescription
She also researched students opinion of using study drugs when it comes to cheating.

We asked several students if they felt using Adderall with prescription was cheating

“No, I don’t view it as cheating, I view it as a stress reliever,” Weir said.

But Norvilitis received a different response from students.

“Among all of the students, they viewed the use of study drugs as cheating. Somewhere kind of in the middle of the realm of cheating. So, worse than saying your grandparents died before a test and not as bad as cheating on a final exam,” Norvilitis said.

  • College students who use study drugs illicitly reported mostly using them for academic reasons, almost 70 percent.
  • 16 percent of students took study drugs for social reasons
  • 14 percent of students took the drugs to get high
  • 1 percent took them to lose weight

Doctors are in a tight spot, because for students diagnosed with ADHD, Adderall and drugs like it are safe and beneficial when taken as prescribed.

“You don’t want to withhold medication that can really help them be successful. So they’re really stuck. Physicians are really stuck in a hard place,” Dr, Burstein said.

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