‘Smart Drugs’ Presence Escalates on Campus

MedShadow reports on off-label abuse

NEW YORK CITY, NY, October 20, 2014 – With prescription ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Adderall increasingly prevalent on college campuses today, there is growing concern about the number of non-ADHD college students taking the drugs to enhance their attentiveness and academic success.

Today, MedShadow.org, an online patient advocacy resource, posted Smart Drugs on Campus: Too Easy to Get and Abuse, an in-depth feature on the widespread use of psychostimulants or “smart drugs”at elite high schools and on college campuses. Written by Teresa Bergen, a regarded health writer and author, the story examines the consequences of this disturbing trend.

A recent study among Ivy League students, presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies in May, revealed that nearly 1 in 5 students (18%) reported misusing a prescription stimulant while studying, and 33% of the students did not view such misuse as cheating. What these students may not realize is that such medications may cause serious short- and long-term side effects.

ADHD drugs work by boosting neurotransmitters in the brain, especially dopamine and norepinephrine, which regulate mood and behavior. When taken as prescribed, these drugs can calm ADHD sufferers and help them to better focus. However, non-ADHD students who take ADHD drugs off-label may experience different, potentially serious outcomes.“Students misusing ADHD drugs for good grades today may find they were a bad trade off,” says Su Robotti, founder/president, MedShadow. “I’m hoping they will avoid these drugs and develop their innate talents instead.” she adds. Robotti’s blog post, Bright Kids, Dark Future looks at the effects of stimulants on students already diagnosed with ADHD.

Medical experts worry that students who use these drugs may find that in the long-term their brains lose their plasticity. Says William Graf, MD, a neurology professor, Yale School of Medicine, “Neuroscience studies show that amphetamines [such as Adderall] may help people maintain focus on mundane tasks, but the drugs tend to decrease cognitive flexibility…we might raise children to feel that they need to take drugs to compete in school – but in the long term, amphetamines will only tend to make people into robotic thinkers, not creative thinkers.”

Read MedShadow’s ongoing coverage of smart drugs

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