Los Angeles — Recent studies show the abuse by college students of “study drugs,” such as Adderall and Ritalin, has dramatically increased andElements Behavioral Health provides parents with information on how to recognize signs of abuse and addiction that indicate the need to intervene.
The organization warns parents that more and more college students are abusing study drugs, and urges them to learn how to recognize withdrawal symptoms and signs of addiction when their children return home for the summer.
“Study drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin, when taken by someone who doesn’t suffer from attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), act as stimulants. They can cause irritability, insomnia, rapid shifts in emotions, and weight loss,” explains Dr. David Sack, an addiction psychiatrist and CEO of Elements Behavioral Health.
Many college students are exposed to illicit drug use and to prescription drug abuse while they are away at school, which can lead to risky behavior, injury, disease, addiction, and even death. When college students return home for the summer, they are often subject to curfews and other house rules that didn’t apply while they were away.
Study drugs allow students to stay up for hours to study without becoming tired. Some students say it increases their ability to focus as well. The drugs are very cheap and easy to obtain, as they are often illicitly sold on campus, sometimes by those who have legitimate prescriptions.
In some cases, students that have become dependent on illicit drugs or prescription medication (such as “study drugs”) will experience withdrawal symptoms if they can’t continue their substance use while living at home.
Others will continue their substance abuse and may exhibit signs of addiction. Being able to recognize these signs and symptoms will help you get your child the treatment they may need as well as prevent future addiction-related problems.
Sometimes students will also deceive a physician by reporting symptoms they know will result in a diagnosis of ADHD and a prescription for the medications they want to use as study aids.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has reported via its Drug Abuse Warning Network that increased prescribing of ADHD drugs has led to greater access by person without a prescription and that peers are a common source of ADHD medications.
“Because these drugs are amphetamine-based, they have a high potential for tolerance and addiction,” notes Sack. “The neurotransmitter dopamine is released in the brain when these drugs are taken, so the brain begins to associate the drugs with a reward and craves more. Periods of extended abuse require increasing amounts of the drug to feel the same effects, which can lead to addiction.”
Serious side effects may also accompany the drugs, including sleep deprivation, loss of appetite, and heart problems. These drugs may also increase blood pressure, which can lead to stroke, heart attack, and sudden death.
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