The “Study Drug” Situation

In the midst of midterm season, it’s easy to see why the proposition is a tempting one.

Spending a few dollars on a prescription pill that can help turn out an essay put off until the last minute, cram for tomorrow’s test or knock out a pile of homework in little time is an ever-present option for college students should they so choose to take it.

If necessity is the mother of invention, procrastination seems to be the father of the so-called “study drug” abuse running rampant on American college campuses, a situation that hasn’t spared Manhattan College by any means.

According to a survey conducted by the Medicine Abuse Project, between 4.1 percent and 10.8 percent of college students “reported using prescription stimulants non-medically” in a given year, a rate that has been on the rise as of late.

Adderall, Vyvanse, Ritalin and Focalin are just a few of the numerous drugs prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and are also some of the most highly abused by students.

They are all classified as Schedule II Drugs by the Drug Enforcement Administration, meaning that they are considered to have “a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.”

With numerous students on campus having prescriptions, access to someone willing to sell off some of their medication isn’t hard to find. Going prices for a pill average around five to ten dollars, a small price to pay in the eyes of many turning to the option.

Buying or using these medications without a prescription is illegal in New York State, as is selling one’s own prescription to others. In addition to expulsion from the college, those found selling are likely to face criminal charges as well.

According to Manhattan College’s Code of Conduct, “the unauthorized selling, purchasing, possession or distribution of drugs and other illegal substances” is in violation of the law and College policy, adding that the school “is not a sanctuary from civil authorities” and that “the use of prescription drugs without a prescription or inconsistent with the prescribed dosage is prohibited.”

In addition to the legal repercussions comes the obvious risks associated with taking medication not prescribed to oneself.

As these pills come in a variety of different sizes, dosages and release forms, students inexperienced with these drugs often don’t know how they will be affected when taking them for the first time.

Drugs like Adderall work to compensate for deficits in brain activity, not to increase it in those without such deficit. According to the Federal Drug Administration, Adderall, a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine, is prescribed to deal with symptoms of ADHD including “difficulty focusing, controlling actions, and remaining still or quiet.”

Known as a “central nervous system stimulant”, the drug works by altering the levels of particular natural substances in the brain. Side effects include difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness and loss of appetite.

Freshman Billy Sinnott, currently prescribed 40mg Vyvanse and 10mg Adderall for ADHD, offered some insight into his own daily use of the medication.

“Vyvanse is [taken] once in the morning because the effects last as long as 12 hours and you really should not be taking that past mid-afternoon. Adderall you can be more lenient with, again you should only use one or two depending on your doctor, and they only last for about six hours” said Sinnott, who had previously been prescribed Focalin in high school prior to his arrival at Manhattan.

“The Adderall kicks in rather quickly […] of course it’s a stimulant so you feel more confident in your abilities, you get kinda euphoric and you’re able to sit down and really power through some work. Vyvanse is like that but much stronger and it lasts for a very long time.”

Sinnott added that he has been propositioned by students to purchase the drugs, typically Adderall, but he has always turned down the offer.

“It comes with [having] the prescription, obviously, in college.” said Sinnott. “Usually they just ask if I’m prescribed meds and I say ‘Yeah, Adderall and Vyvanse,’ and if they ask for either or I just say no.”

For Sinnott, reasoning for not selling is simple enough.

“It says it’s a federal offense on the bottle,” said Sinnott.

Students seeking advice or help for prescription drug abuse can receive attention without concern for potential repercussions on campus.

According to the Manhattan College Counseling Center’s web page, “The counselors follow professional counseling guidelines regarding privacy. All student information is held in the strictest confidence within the Counseling Center. Other college offices do not have any access to Counseling Center records […] No information is released without [a student’s] written permission,” should they choose to seek assistance there.

Likewise, the Manhattan College Health Services web page states,“All information received and maintained by Health Services is confidential. No information will be given to anyone other than Health Services personnel without permission from the patient (except under emergency situations involving danger to oneself or others).”