Posted on August 27, 2008 in Alcohol and Drug News, Alcohol and Drug Treatment

Ritalin Abuse Among Students

Prescription stimulants used to treat ADHD, most commonly Ritalin, are the new drug of choice on college campuses and in high school hallways. Though legal and helpful when prescribed to people who actually have ADHD, these pills are more and more commonly being abused by students who don’t have the disorder. Ritalin stimulates the central nervous system with effects similar to but less potent than amphetamines, and more powerful than caffeine. The pill has a calming effect on hyperactive children and a “focusing” effect on those with ADHD. However, many people without ADHD have caught on to the power of the drug and often use it when faced with a long night of studying or writing a paper. While the pills do make you more able to focus, people not prescribed the pills often take more than is needed, therefore increasing the risk of side effects and future complications.

Ritalin and other prescription stimulants are also easy to obtain and relatively cheap. Often times, students who are prescribed the pills hand them out to their friends, or sell them for $2-$5 per pill. A 2005 study by the University of Michigan Substance Abuse Research Center showed that 10% of college students have used stimulants illegally at some point during their college years. Often times, these students aren’t necessarily the best students and may have fallen behind during the semester. Ritalin provides them with an opportunity to cram and try to catch up before a big test or exam.

Many students aren’t aware of Ritalin’s harmful side effects. Some of these may include an irregular heartbeat, problems with circulation, increased aggression or irritability, difficulty sleeping, and loss of appetite. High doses may cause paranoia, confusion, and hallucinations.

When used correctly, Ritalin and other prescription stimulants truly help those with ADHD. But abuse of these prescriptions by those who don’t need it can cause health problems and lead students to become addicted to the high. This can lead to more substance abuse problems down the road unless treatment is sought.

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