Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Study-drug use popular at UW

Pulling all-nighters and cramming for exams are synonymous with coffee drinking, and are such popular techniques that they become almost a way of life for some college students. In the past several years, though, students have found alternatives to the coffee standby. Study drugs are growing in popularity at many college campuses, including at UW-Madison.

Popular study drugs, technically called stimulants, include caffeine pills, Aderol, Ritalin and Dexedrine. These drugs are prescribed by doctors to those patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. ADHD is a diagnosis applied to both children and adults who experience high levels of distractibility, hyperactivity and impulsivity over time.

The drugs are used to increase the patient’s attention span and help them learn more easily. Concentration levels are supposed to increase with the use of these drugs and as a result, many students turn to them for late-night studying.

Dr. Eric Heiligenstein from University Health Services said the side affects from these drugs include mood swings, loss of appetite and sleep deprivation. Dr. Heiligenstein acknowledges there have been several problems here with these drugs.

“We’ve seen both students with ADHD and those without come in from a misuse and abuse of these drugs,” he said.

Dr. Heiligenstein also said that these drugs are considered to be gateway drugs because they often lead to the use of more dangerous substances.

According to the International Child and Youth Care Network, students have been buying these drugs from ADHD patients. They say that “Users often crush the pills and snort them to get a cocaine-like rush.”

A UW freshman said he knows many students who take these drugs for a high.

“I have friends who started snorting Ritalin and Aderol and have now begun to snort cocaine,” he said.

Most students, however, use the drugs to concentrate on studying.

“Sitting down with Aderol for three or four hours is better than sitting down for seven hours and studying because you retain more information and are able to concentrate for longer periods of time,” said a UW sophomore, who wished to remain anonymous.

According to a study done in the past few years here at UW, one in five students had used Ritalin for non-medicinal reasons.

“Abuse of prescription stimulants became more common in the past five years, as production of Ritalin increased and other drugs were introduced into the marketplace,” according to The Federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

The major problem is that most users do not understand the negative effects these drugs have on those without ADHD. It is true that some drugs can increase alertness, and the ability to perform strenuous tasks.

However, using stimulants to stay awake often has adverse affects. When using the drug to pull an all-nighter, the loss of sleep before a test can decrease one’s test-taking ability.

“The exam pressure got the best of me, so I felt like I had no other way out,” says Adam Handler, a UW sophomore. “Although it boosted my concentration level, I needed Tylenol PM to get to bed that night.”

Freshman Marty Weissman says that he used to take Aderol for ADHD but stopped taking it.

“I took it for a while but it totally threw off my sleeping patterns and so I wasn’t doing as well as I could have,” Weissman said.

“A lot of my friends take them,” another student said. ” It keeps you up, but it’s actually harder to concentrate because you’re shaky and hyper.”

The use of these drugs recreationally poses the question of who is to blame for the overwhelming increase in usage.

In the past, ADHD has been diagnosed improperly and so it’s easy for the drug to get into the wrong hands.

Because these drugs are prescription drugs, they are a lot easier to get and afford than cocaine and other popular stimulant drugs.

It is true that the pressure from exams and papers can be overwhelming sometimes, but students tend to be coping and compensating in what experts say is the wrong way.

Most students who take the drugs are aware of their consequences.

“Drugs aren’t the answer to anything — it’s more of a psychological effect than anything,” UW freshman Daniel Schwartz said. “All drugs do is cause more problems.”

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