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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, May 20, 2022

A prescription for success?

It is that time of year again. Midterms are in our midst and everyone is left figuring out how to cram it all in. Between long hours at the library and weekend nights spent studying, there never seems to be enough time to grasp every vocabulary word, digest every theory and comprehend every equation.  


This is where prescription drugs, such as Adderall and Ritalin, come into play. These addictive stimulants are utilized to enable concentration and make up for procrastination.  


The use of prescription drugs among college students is a growing problem,"" Dr. Eric Heiligenstein, Clinical Director of Psychiatry at UW - oMadison Health Services, said.  


Although seemingly harmless, abusing Adderall and Ritalin has many negative side-effects, both short term and long term. These drugs are readily available and conversations about them among young adults are quite lax. The main concern with misuse of Adderall and Ritlain is that very few users think it is a problem.  


This is where the difficulty in controlling the mishandling of such substances begins.  

Adderall is prescribed by doctors to treat those suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. Along the same lines, Ritalin is prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD.  


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the folwing symptoms are associated with the two disorders: inability to concentrate, hyperactivity, inattentiveness and a lack of listening and processing skills.  

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These symptoms occur in both personal and social environments and affect the diagnosed person tremendously on a daily basis.  


However, more and more college students are using prescription drugs for reasons other than what is prescribed, and are obtaining them illicitly. Legally, Adderall sales have grown over thirty percent in recent years. Comparably, so have sales in illegal markets. Whether it is pressure to do well or an answer to procrastination, pre-midterm students are finding this drug to be a crucial aid in lessening the load and cramming it all in. 


Katie, a sophomore at UW-Madison, said, ""I have to do well to get into my major. My future depends on doing well in school.""  


She has not yet succumbed to the pressures of Adderall or Ritalin, although remarked that she has ""considered taking Adderall"" but when it came time to study decided not to for fear it might have adverse effects. It seems that only the ""magical"" effects of prescription drugs are broadcasted and the harmful effects, such as insomnia, anorexia and depression, get left in the dark.  


Another sophomore at UW-Madison, Anna, commented that she tried it and found herself extremely antsy and unable to concentrate. ""I felt like I drank four cups of coffee,"" she said. Long term effects aside, the fact that she could not study for an important exam was enough for her to say, ""Never again!"" 


On the other hand, Mike, a senior at UW-Madison, finds Adderall to be significantly helpful. He said it enables him to study for a prolonged period of time with little interruption. Not only does it work psychologically, he ""can physically feel it"" calming him down. He is by no means the only one who feels this way; many other students agree which is why unprescribed use of these drugs is so popular.  


According to Mike, it is difficult to be at the library for eight hours straight and being a ""mild procrastinator"" makes these long library trips necessary. Currently, he takes 25mg Adderall XR, which he claims to be the ""Rolls Royce of Adderall"" because it is a time release instead of a rapid release.  


This allows the drug to be slowly dispensed throughout the body. Both the range of effects and the cheap cost - usually $3-$5 per pill - are extremely enticing to overly tired and sometimes broke college students.  


Heiligenstein said he believes Adderall and Ritalin are often foster other, more serious issues. Amphetamine is a drug contained in Ritalin and Adderall that stimulates the central nervous system. Heiligenstein said that the amphetamine in the medications often ""cures a hangover"" by alleviating symptoms. This allows heavy drinkers to get away without some of the consequences, such as headaches and nausea, resulting from too many alcoholic beverages.  


However, as with every vice, ""it will catch up with you,"" Heiligenstein warned. Besides increasing high-risk behavior, misusing prescription drugs may also lead to the use of other, more destructive and addictive drugs. In addition, amphetamines can result in serious and possibly fatal heart and blood pressure problems if misused. 


Another issue that arises from abusing prescription drugs is the threat of dependence. Eventually, as Heiligenstein said, ""usual sources dry up,"" while users are still ""psychologically dependent.""  


It might not seem like an addictive drug but according to Heiligenstein, college habits often carry over into the post-college lifestyle. A long day at the library can be quite comparable to a long day at the office, especially if alcohol was in the mix the previous night. If Ritalin, for example, has worked in a college atmosphere there is no saying why it would not be sustainable in a work environment.  


Beyond problems of misuse are the ethical issues involved in taking these stimulants to improve performance on tests. Taking unprescribed medications like Adderall and Ritalin has been pinned as a form of cheating and, as Heiligenstein put it, the act ""parallels athletes using performance enhancement drugs."" It is a form of academic dishonesty that allows users to get a step up on homework and tests.  


It is crucial to note illegal possession of these drugs is considered a felony in the state of Wisconsin, which sure doesn't good look on a resumé, Heiligenstein said.  


Pressures to succeed in the midst of a chaotic college career are overwhelming. However, these little shortcuts, although they appear seemingly harmless, do produce detrimental effects. Adderall and Ritalin provide a short fix but result in long-term problems. They are also illegal and ethically questionable.  


Even so, Mike has concluded that ""positives outweigh the negatives,"" but added, ""After two days of being on Adderall, I thought back on what I'd done and it was kind of a blur.""

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