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One Out of Four Students Believed to Use ADHD Meds to Improve Academic Outcomes

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Teens and young adults are feeling the pressure to succeed at school, with many moving way past coffee and into high-risk prescription stimulant drugs to enhance academic performance. Rather than receiving admission letters from top-notch schools, more teens and young adults are gaining admissions to drug treatment programs as a result of abusing “smart” drugs.

The category of smart drugs, such as ADHD medications, may help a student maintain concentration for longer periods or stay awake to study longer, and some are being offered or encouraged by parents who also have a succeed-based mentality.

The drugs have been compared to the way an athlete might use a steroid. One article said that around 25 percent of students enrolled in college are believed to have used a medication for ADHD illegally, and in many cases, students may carry this dangerous habit to the professional workplace.

The medications, including Ritalin and Adderall, have a similar stimulant effect to cocaine. They can make a student hyper-focused and can cause dangerous rises in blood pressure, loss of appetite and long-term sleep deprivation. Intense shifts in mood and periods of psychosis, along with hallucinations and convulsing, are also reported.

When mixed with alcohol or other substances, the outcomes can be even more dangerous. Experts fear the illegal use of these “cognitive” performance enhancers can also open a door to continued drug abuse post-college.

Students and parents may feel that the medications are somehow “safer” than other substances and overlook their abuse, but medications like Ritalin or Vyvanse have a Schedule II category for controlled substances.

This places the drugs in the same group as the stimulant cocaine, and some research indicates students who illegally use the prescriptions may also be more likely to try abusing pain medications, meth or even cocaine.

At some universities, students have reported selling prescription ADHD pills for as much as $15 each during high-stress times like finals week. Experts believe the growing numbers of students abusing these types of medications may reflect a continual push toward success and being competitive in all areas, despite the cost.

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