It’s that time of year again — with finals not too far ahead, students are cracking open the books and churning out papers all over campus. Sleep is often the first necessity to be pushed aside in an attempt to stay awake for an all-night studying session.
While many students will be drinking coffee and other equally-caffeinated beverages, some will resort to taking over-the-counter and prescription drugs to keep them awake. Sean McCabe, interim director of the University of Michigan Substance Abuse Research Center, said use of prescription drug Adderall is increasing on college campuses.
The illegal use of Adderall as a study aid is increasingly becoming “more popular on college campuses around the country, especially schools with highly competitive admissions criteria and those college campuses with higher rates of binge drinking,” McCabe said.
Adderall is an amphetamine used to treat patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It acts on the central nervous system and is used to decrease hyperactivity and increase brain stimulation.
“Adderall helps me focus on anything I put my mind to — I am able to concentrate for hours and nothing can come between me and what I am working on,” said an Architecture senior who uses the substance illegally, without a prescription.
“I sell my extra pills for about $5 a pop, but I won’t sell more than two to three pills to one person, because I don’t want them to take them all at once,” said an LSA senior who has a prescription for Adderall.
But Vicki Hays, associate director of the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services, added that there are also side effects to using Adderall, which some students may not consider.
“It is a controlled substance and therefore is illegal without prescription, with major side effects including palpitations, overstimulation, insomnia and loss of appetite,” Hays said.
McCabe and colleagues recently studied the prevalence of non-medical use of prescription stimulants — Ritalin, Dexadrine and Adderall — across national college campuses.
“In our recent study we found that students with grade point averages of B or lower were two times more likely to use prescription stimulants non-medically than those earning a B+ or higher grade point average,” said McCabe.
Out of all students surveyed, 6.9 percent self-reported lifetime use, and 4.1 percent reported past month prevalence. Students that were male, white or members of fraternities or sororities tended to report higher non-mediated use of prescribed stimulants.
Naps throughout the day are extremely important to LSA senior Lyndsey Townsend.
“I take naps because there is no point in trying to do work when you are tired — you have less quality (and) then it ends up being a waste of time because you are too tired to see,” Townsend said.
Beverages like coffee, soda and now Red Bull provide lots of help for students who need that pick-me-up during those late night hours.
“I have six Red Bulls in my fridge. They keep me up, energized and pumped to do my work,” said Marisa Costa, an LSA freshman.
Red Bull has about 80 mg. of caffeine which is equivalent to a cup of coffee.
Although Red Bull itself is not addictive, “some people are addicted to caffeine, and experience restlessness and scattered thoughts” said Hays.
Giving your mind and body a break from your work is a way to increase the effectiveness of your studying. Rather than abusing drugs and chugging coffee to stay awake and get your work done, Hays said “physical activity is a better way to increase alertness than any of these products — for every hour in a row studied, the ability to concentrate and get effective studying done decreases.”
Those late night study sessions do not need to be as stressful and painful as they have been in the past.
“Study in small chunks — be realistic, work for an hour and a half to two hours, take a 15 to 20 minute break and then switch subjects to clear your mind so that you can retain the most information,” said Adrianne Camero-Sulak, a CAPS staff member.