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Video: Doctor warns of campus ‘study drug’ abuse dangers

Ben Warnick
Oxford Stories

With finals week just around the corner, students have already begun to prepare for big tests. In a college environment, studying is often paired with “study drugs.”

Adderall, a strong amphetamine-based drugs used for ADD and ADHD, is typically the drug of choice for college students. While the drug might seem like an easy way to get the most out of studying, medical professionals warn it is far from harmless.

“What happens with that particular medicine is it stimulates a lot of the catecholamines and the adrenaline in your body,” said Dr. Barry Bertolet with Cardiology Associates of North Mississippi. “It increases those levels, but when that runs low, you get this artificial or drug-induced low with that. After a while, you do become addicted to that high.”

Students note the drug’s ability to prolong their focus and alertness for long periods of time. Dr. Bertolet considers those factors to be far less beneficial than many students believe.

“There’s a misnomer that if you take those drugs you’ll be able to study better and retain better,” said Bertolet. “That’s not true. It may keep you awake, but the information that you collect won’t be retained. So you won’t do better on tests.”

Bertolet says an increasing number of his patients come in with symptoms that stem from study drug abuse.

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“What we have seen is that people who take these drugs long-term do damage to themselves,” Bertolet said. “They get high blood pressure and unhealthy weight loss. More recently, I’ve seen a lot of patients come in with very weak heart muscles because they have gone into heart failure as a result of taking Adderall.”

According to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, out of “all Adderall nonmedical use, from age 12 and up, 60 percent was among 18-to-25-year-olds.” Students are becoming exposed to the drugs at earlier ages, which increases the popularity of the drugs due to their commonplace appearance in the study lives of adolescents.

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“Students relate to it as a brain stimulant to boost their study grind,” an Ole Miss student said, wishing to remain anonymous. “Finals week is a stressful period that becomes tiresome really quickly. I personally did not see any major abuse of Adderall until I was 18, but I know that kids are taking it at younger ages now.”

Bertolet and other medical professionals advise that sleep, eating right, and maintaining otherwise healthy lifestyles will be far more beneficial for students looking to do well on the final tests.

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