Comment: Getting high for higher grades

[Shelby Loasby | News Sub Editor]

It is undoubtedly one of the most stressful times of your life; being at university and trying to juggle your coursework, exam revision, and extra-curricular activities, with your job, social life and sex life. Some students can brush the stress off, others find ways to wind-down, and worryingly, some students feel the need to turn to stimulants to get them through.

Last year a study revealed that ⅕ of Ivy League students in the USA had taken study pills to smart-up, and according to a recent Independent article, this is also the case in the Oxbridge colleges in the UK. But if you were offered a small white pill with the power to enhance productivity, increase your focus, result in more hours in the library, and ultimately give you the potential to gain a better degree, wouldn’t you do it too?

Whilst some students have popped the odd Pro-Plus to work through the night, others are dwindling in the harder, ‘smart drugs’ to cope with the increasing pressures at university. The most common ‘smart drugs’ are Modafinil, Ritalin and Adderall.

Modafinil

Treats: Narcolepsy (brain disorder that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep)

Legality: Not illegal to buy, but against the law to supply or sell it on to others

Effects: Prevents excessive sleepiness during waking hours

Side effects: Headache, dizziness, nausea, nervousness, trouble sleeping, toilet problems

Ritalin

Treats: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Legality: If not prescribed, it is a class B drug – possession can lead to 5 years in prison

Effects: Central nervous system stimulant – effects the nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control

Side Effects: Nervousness, irritability, insomnia, loss of appetite, weight loss, headaches dizziness, nausea, erectile problems, aggression, delusion, hallucinations

Adderall

Treats: ADHD

Legality: If not prescribed, it is a class B drug – possession can lead to 5 years in prison

Effects: Combo of Amphetamine and dextroamphetamine to control the nerves that contribute to hyperactivity

Side Effects: Nausea, loss of appetite, dry mouth, anxiety, agitation, nervousness, insomnia, weakness, numbness, hallucinations, high blood pressure

 

Professor Matt Varga, who specialises in counselor education and college student affairs in a university in America, explained that the “drugs contain chemical cousins of cocain and will speed you up,” and also mean “people can stay up for hours on end.”

Surprisingly, these drugs have been easier to get hold of than marijuana and often have more severe consequences and effects. Some students just buy them online or can just send a text to a friend who is prescribed with the medication.

Studies have also shown that the amount of concentration you have can backfire. One student said in an interview with the Guardian:

“It gives you amazing concentration but you have to make sure you’re actually in front of your books. I spent five hours in my room rearranging my iTunes library on it once.”

Founder and editor of the Tab, Jack Rivlin, 24, told Newsbeat in a recent interview that he had bought some tablets on a foreign website during the exam period, which helped him to focus and get through the revision.

“It’s kind of like putting the rest of your life on hold for the purpose of work,” he said. “You might snap at someone and I remember my girlfriend at the time thinking ‘I don’t want to be around you when you’re on it.’”

Rivlin also explained that the Tab questioned over 1,800 students in an online survey about the various smart drugs and discovered that around one in five of the respondents revealed they had taken smart drugs, including Modafinil.

Why the sudden increase in taking performance enhancing drugs?

Student life has changed. They are now searching for more stories online about CVs, jobs, and fees and have become much more career-conscious. The competitive, fast-paced and challenging world of today has had damaging effects on people’s expectations and abilities.

The last ten years of generations has seen students doping themselves up on various medications as they believe it will give them that confidence, concentration and focus needed to succeed.

Anjan Chatterhee, a professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, has commented on the smart drug craze: “It’s even in high schools now, especially in the more affluent suburbs. Students call them ‘study aids,” he said. “It is estimated that a third of all students have a prescription for some sort of psychoactive medication anyway, so the availability is quite high. Often, they’ll just sell on the medication in the library.”

The questions we need to start asking ourselves is how young will smart drug users get? Why the sudden increase in the need to take the drugs? Have the pressures of today’s world become too hard and heavy? At the rate in which smart drug intake is increasing, we could see the next 50 years of generations as junkies, hooked on behavior altering drugs and living lives of constant depression and anxiety, all so they can just gain better grades and have a fighting chance in the working world. It is obvious that more help, support and advice needs to be offered to young adults, especially around the most stressful times of year.

Have you ever taken a ‘smart drug’ to help with studies? Let us know your experience @TridentMediaUK.

[The opinions expressed here are the writers’ own and are not endorsed by Trident Media or Hertfordshire Students’ Union]

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Comment: Getting high for higher grades