Gone are the days when prescription drugs were used for treating illnesses only. Considering the enticing myths surrounding the nonmedical use of prescription stimulants, college and high school students are increasingly using these drugs in the hope of enhancing their academic performance and managing examination stress.
According to the findings of the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), around 18.9 million individuals aged 12 or older (7.1 percent of the population) in the United States were nonmedical users of prescription drugs while 5.3 million (2 percent) abused stimulants including Adderall and Ritalin.
Monitoring the Future 2016 Study by National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported a prevalence of Adderall abuse of 1.50 percent, 4.20 percent, and 6.20 percent in 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, respectively while the prevalence of Ritalin abuse in the same group was reported to be 0.80 percent, 1.20 percent, and 1.20 percent, respectively. Generally prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), prescription stimulants abuse may lead to serious health problems.
Let’s take a look at some of the popular myths regarding nonmedical use of prescription stimulants.
1. Myth: Stimulants are performance enhancers.
Fact: There are anecdotes suggesting that stimulants can help students struggling with final exams and intense academic pressure. However, researchers think just the opposite. A study, “Nonmedical Use of Prescription Stimulants and Analgesics: Associations with Social and Academic Behaviors among College Students”, concluded that nonmedical high school users of prescription drugs scored significantly lower grade point averages (GPAs) than nonusers. Moreover, they were found to be skipping classes more often and spending less time studying than in socializing.
2. Myth: Prescription stimulants do not harm anyone’s health or cause addiction.
Fact: It is again a misconception as prescription stimulant abuse can lead to addiction. People abusing such drugs have been found to be taking the drug even when they are aware of the side effects. Users often share prescriptions among friends to feed their addiction and procure even those drugs, which were not originally prescribed to them. People with regular stimulant abuse have also reported withdrawal symptoms after they discontinued them including loss of pleasure, lack of energy, suicide thoughts, intense drug cravings, anxiety and irritability.
3. Myth: Unlike underage binge drinking and marijuana use, misusing and sharing prescription medications is legal and safe.
Fact: Many students perceive that it is all right if they are taking a stimulant to cram for exams all night. Actually, it is not. Many of these drugs are categorized under controlled substances and using them without a doctor’s prescription is both harmful and illegal. Only a registered pharmacist can dispense these medicines on a valid prescription.
4. Myth: It can be used the way one likes, if a doctor has prescribed it before.
Fact: Doctors generally prescribe stimulants to ADHD patients and hence, they should be taken strictly as advised by the doctor. Taking more than the advised dose and combining stimulants with other drugs or alcohol can cause brain damage and poses risk to cardiovascular health. In addition, one who possesses them should refrain from sharing their pills with their family and friends.
5. Myth: It is normal. Everyone is doing it.
Fact: Most college students find it normal to use these drugs and watching their peer bragging about how nonmedical use of prescription stimulants reduces stress makes the ignorant ones forget about the safety concerns. One must be aware that the drugs contain elements that alter brain chemistry and may cause depression and other side effects.
Getting over myths and seeking help
Myths, such as prescription stimulants may improve grades, enhance performance and make one stress-free can be a hindrance to maintain optimum mental health. Prescription stimulants can be highly addictive if not taken under supervision. Addiction to any drug poses risks to mental health and may lead to other addictions. Meeting a professional is always the best route to lead a sober life again.
If you know someone addicted to prescription drugs, you may contact the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline of California for more information on prescription drug rehab in California where programs are tailor-made to treat a person holistically. Chat online with experts or call our 24/7 helpline number 855-738-2770 to get details about some of the best drug addiction treatment centers in California.