Drugs used to enhance studying draw concern

Jasbird Jasbird#deletethis# at myrealbox.com
Sun Jul 6 06:44:54 EST 2003


How to manufacture a drugs panic - From miracle ADHD cure to deadly
'drug of abuse' within a few short years.

I suppose when you have the hysteria there is about drugs in the US it
is inevitable that the media view of drugs ranges from miracle cure to
deadly disease - often for the same drug within the space of a few
years.
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<http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/state/6241662.htm>

Posted on Sun, Jul. 06, 2003
 
Drugs used to enhance studying draw concern
BY MAHVISH KHAN
mkhan at herald.com

Two prescription stimulants widely bought and sold on the university
underground in South Florida and across the country are increasingly
drawing criticism from doctors, law enforcement, ethicists -- and
fellow students.

The drugs, Ritalin and Adderall, are used illegally to enhance
studying by as many as one in five college students, according to a
November 2002 study published in The Johns Hopkins News-Letter.

At the University of Miami, administrators have put up fliers and
posters around campus in recent years warning students of adverse
effects from misuse of the drugs. The University of Florida is
studying the level of use.

Experts say Adderall and Ritalin help students focus longer and get
their work done quicker.

''It's a miracle drug,'' said Matt, 19, a finance major at UF who grew
up in Fort Lauderdale. ``It is unbelievable how my concentration
boosts when I use Adderall.''

Matt, who did not want to be identified for fear he would be charged
with a crime, credits Adderall use for his improved grades. He says he
went from a 2.75 grade-point average in his first semester to a 3.25
in the second.

The small blue or orange pills are typically prescribed for children
and adults with attention-deficit disorder (ADD) and attention-deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But their effects on normal adults make
it sound like a wonder drug.

''Caffeine is fine. This is better,'' said Dr. Eric Heiligenstein,
director of clinical psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin.
``Students are able to accumulate more information in a shorter time
frame. These drugs keep you awake longer. They minimize fatigue and
help maintain a high performance level.''

SIDE EFFECTS

But the drugs, chemical cousins of cocaine, can cause increased heart
and respiratory rates, elevated blood pressure, sleep deprivation, dry
mouth, and lack of appetite. They can lead to withdrawal symptoms and,
in rare cases, have been linked to aggression and cardiac arrhythmia.

''When the effects of the drugs wane, there is a tendency for some
individuals to crash and experience withdrawal,'' said William
Dorfman, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Nova Southeastern
University in Davie. ``They are prone to irritability, low mood,
fatigue, and depression.''

Ritalin and Adderall also can serve as gateway drugs for further
substance abuse, and -- according to a recent UM study on laboratory
mice -- could make cocaine addiction harder to beat.

That has not dissuaded many college users, even though use without a
prescription is a felony that can result in jail time.

EASY TO GET

With 4 to 6 percent of Americans diagnosed with ADD, the drugs are
widely prescribed and easy to come by. Federal drug enforcers list
Adderall and Ritalin among their most tightly regulated prescription
drugs.

''The abuse of these substances is of great concern to us. They have a
high potential for dependency and abuse,'' said Rogene Waite of the
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The underground price for a standard 10- or 20-milligram dose of
Adderall or Ritalin is about $5 or $6, students say. Finding the drug
poses little challenge.

''I just walk down the hall in my dorm and knock on a friend's door.
It's very widely used and really easy to get,'' said Matt, the UF
student. ``Prices definitely go up during final exam times, and it's
harder to get because people get stingy with their supplies.''

Some students who don't use the drug say their pill-popping classmates
have an unfair edge and consider use of the pills a form of cheating.

''I think it's deceptive. A GPA is what employers and graduate schools
use to select students. It is supposed to be indicative of your
natural academic ability,'' said Ramin Baghai, 25, a master's of
business administration student at Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. ``I want to graduate and get a good job. If someone is
passing off their drug-enhanced GPA for a natural one, it's unfair.''

''They can be viewed as brain steroids because in some way the drugs
give students an unfair advantage,'' Heiligenstein said. ``The
productivity levels are so much higher when comparing with students
who do not use the medication.''

Other students disagree and say the pills are just as fair as hiring a
private tutor or paying for test preparation services.

''These drugs are study tools, just like tutors and caffeine pills. We
use what's available to us. It's not cheating,'' said Kevin Shulman,
22, a University of Central Florida senior from Cooper City.

Some worry that tomorrow's lawyers, doctors and business professionals
are committing felonies before they have even begun practice.

''This is considered unethical behavior, and it is treated very
negatively,'' said Judy Rushlow, assistant director of Florida Lawyers
Assistants. ``We are aware that these drugs are being used as a study
aid by university and law students. These individuals run the risk of
getting caught and damaging their careers.''

Evidence of Adderall or Ritalin abuse can hinder law students from
gaining admission to the bar association, and students known to have
abused drugs are carefully evaluated and put through investigative
hearings.

''As a lawyer, you are an officer of the court,'' said Heather Gatley,
an employment and labor attorney at Miami-based Steel, Hector & Davis.
``This firm does not want to admit individuals who have problems
complying with the law.''

ENFORCEMENT

Campus law enforcement officials say they are doing their part to curb
the problem.

''These days, we are a lot more suspicious of these kinds of abuses.
There is a lot more attention paid to what is in a prescription bottle
now than a few years ago,'' said Sgt. Raul Pedroso of the University
of Miami police.

''This is clearly a widespread social phenomenon, and there is clearly
a black market on the university scene for these drugs,'' said Dr. Jon
Shaw, a psychiatrist at UM. ``There is no question that this abuse
goes on, and clinicians are constantly trying to reduce the problem.''




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