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