It’s midnight, you’re exhausted from eight hours of class and you still have 15 chapters to read. Your stomach hurts and you have a headache. You sweat just thinking about what you have to do, and in order to focus, you grab “study-enhancers,” such as Adderall, or energy pills, and try to concentrate.
Caffeine is the most common drug amongst college students and many are aware of its detrimental side effects. However, not so many know about the downsides to energy pills and study-enhancing drugs.
Increasing in popularity, Adderall is not an uncommon prescription drug used to help students concentrate in class and do better on tests.
Adderall, or amphetamine-dextroamphetamine, was first marketed in the 1960s as the diet pill of choice. It is currently classified as a stimulant medication and appetite suppressant and is mostly used to treat both attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Adderall stimulates the central nervous system by increasing the release of chemicals such as dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. These chemicals, or neurotransmitters, help the brain send signals between nerve cells. The drug helps restore the balance of these neurotransmitters to the parts of the brain that control the ability to focus and pay attention.
â€œYes, they do make an individual more alert, but at what cost?â€ said Dr. Patti Laguna, sport psychology professor. â€œThe lack of sleep, especially with long-term use, can be extremely dangerous.â€
The side effects of Adderall may not be noticed the first few times, but as time progresses, users are capable of experiencing repercussions.
â€œSome side effects include increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, constriction of blood vessels, increase of glucose in blood, restlessness and insomnia,â€ said Laguna. â€œSerious side effects include increased body temperature, irregular heart rate, cardiovascular failure, seizures, and in rare cases psychosis.â€
According to Laguna, there have been a few studies conducted that have examined Adderall misuse. For example, approximately six to 10 percent of students nationally have misused Adderall for studying, while Adderall misusers typically have alcohol-related problems (i.e., binge drinking). Adderall misusers include more males (14.4 percent) than females (9.1 percent), more white (14.5 percent) than non-white (6.1 percent) and more students residing with the Greek system (53.9 percent) than those residing on campus (14.5 percent) or those who reside off campus (seven percent).
Those who want to avoid Adderall attempt to stick to other studying habits.
â€œUsually when I have an exam, I just cram,â€ said 24-year-old illustration major Barbra Cembrano.
Although Adderall may be a bad choice to study with, other substances such as energy pills aren’t any better and can even be worse.
For example, some students take caffeinated diet pills as an alternative to sugary beverages. However, there is one unforeseen problem with caffeine in diet pills: the amount of caffeine can be equal to two or three cups of coffee. When that is added to the already caffeine-enriched student diet of soda pop and Red Bulls, it can increase a student’s heart rate and blood pressure, and can induce insomnia and anxiety.
Energy pills cause muscle tremors, headache, nausea and other gastrointestinal problems as well as abnormal heart rhythms. In addition to this, relying on stimulants may be a quick fix, but they are not suitable for long-term energy.
â€œMost students who use these types of study drugs are merely cheating themselves. They think they have found a short cut to studying and doing well in their classes,â€ said Laguna. â€œThey may get away with not having to understand and learn the material today but it will definitely come back to haunt them again. It might not be tomorrow or next week, but sooner or later (even when they have a job) they will need to learn it.â€
Some students have stressful lives dealing with exams and pressure in and outside of the classroom. The amount of pressure and stress they put on themselves is hard enough, but adding vast amounts of caffeine and over-the-counter drugs can be more damaging to their health.
â€œIf you need to stay up late take a cold shower, run around, turn up the music and open up a window,â€ suggested history major Tondra Russell.