Thursday, July 28, 2016 | Subscribe

15% of students use study drugs

When asked if they had used a pre­scription “study” drug that was not their own, 15.1 percent of Hillsdale College students surveyed responded in the affirmative.

In a survey con­ducted by The Col­legian, 72 of 477 students admitted to using someone else’s pre­scription for a drug such as Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, or Concerta at least once.

“I’m sur­prised, but I’m not utterly shocked, that [the number] is that high,” said Brock Lutz, director of health and wellness.

While 30 students said that they reg­ularly use others’ pre­scription med­ication, 21 said they only use during stressful times, and 11 said they used just once.

“Most people I know that take stuff like Ritalin use it when it’s finals or ‘hell week,’” a Hillsdale student said. “I think people’s per­fec­tionism gets to them sometimes and they can’t figure out how to cope with papers and tests.”

Survey results indicated that students most commonly use Adderall, a drug pre­scribed to control symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyper­ac­tivity Disorder.

“Adderall is an amphetamine. There’s no dif­ference between Adderall and an amphetamine,” said Dr. David Parker, a family prac­ti­tioner from Hastings, Mich. “In the olden days, they used to call that speed.”

Psy­chotropic drugs, like Adderall, pre­scribed for attention dis­orders fall under Schedule II of the Con­trolled Sub­stances Act for the United States. Such drugs are clas­sified as stimulants.

“Schedule V drugs have very low potential for abuse. Schedule I has no medical use,” Parker said. “Heroin falls into that category. Schedule II drugs are con­sidered to have some medical use but are very tightly reg­ulated. Adderall falls into that; it’s a stimulant.”

Schedule II drugs, while they are not phys­i­o­log­ically addictive, can be psy­cho­log­ically addictive; impair a person’s ability to function if abused; and can cause other health problems, Lutz said.

One anonymous student, who has a pre­scription for Adderall, occa­sionally shares his med­ication with other students. A main moti­vation for using them, the student said, is because people at other schools use them.

“Your com­pe­tition is using them,” the student said. “When you’re going up against people coming out of schools with good names, good programs, and solid rep­u­tations, they’re able to be more pro­ductive and more focused because they have them.”

For instance, Alan DeSantis, a pro­fessor and researcher at the Uni­versity of Kentucky, found in a survey that 30 percent of Kentucky students used study drugs illegally.

But Lutz said that such attitudes are cop-outs.

“These aren’t designed to be per­formance enhancing drugs. They are intended to help people function who have dis­abilities. They are not intended for people with ‘normal’ brain chemistry,” he said. “Again, the danger is ulti­mately that you’re abusing drugs that are like cocaine when you use them in a way they aren’t intended for.”

Provost David Whalen said that such drug use indicates something is seriously awry in a student’s life.

“By that I mean, if a student is taking so many classes, or at least so many classes of a certain type, that he or she must take drugs to stay afloat, then more is amiss than just a mis­un­der­standing of the proper use of drugs,” he said. “One’s whole under­standing and approach to this matter of higher learning is twisted.”

He said that academic study is meant to leaven or raise the “level” of ordinary intel­lectual attainment in the student.

“A drug-enhanced per­formance both mis­rep­resents that attainment and disables or wounds the effect of learning upon the student,” Whalen said.

In addition to devaluing edu­cation, using someone else’s pre­scription is illegal. Illegal pos­session of Schedule II drugs in Michigan may result in court-ordered drug treatment, jail time, fines, and more, though the severity of penalties depends on the crime.

The federal penalties for a first-offense sale is no less than five years in jail and fines.

“This is more of a trans­gression than it may appear, as such vio­lations of the law actually harm the soul — not to mention the com­munity,” Whalen said. “There are counter-arguments to both assertions, I know, but by the time one graduates one really ought to be able to rec­ognize those arguments for the sophomoric things they are — with apologies to sophomores.”

A few comments in the survey indicated that a small con­tingency of students use such drugs recreationally.

“Some people use recre­ationally. There’s a definite sub­culture attached to that. It depends on what kind of a school you’re at,” a student told The Col­legian. “It’s not apparent to me that there is a big com­munity here [at Hillsdale]. If there is one, it’s very small and very quiet.”


—Patrick Timmis con­tributed to this report