October 31st, 2012 16:17 EST
Adderall May Not Be a One-Way Ticket to Masters Programs Afterall
There`s little doubt that today`s college students face more pressures to succeed than most prior generations could even imagine. Armed with robust high school resumes boasting sports, extracurriculars, and leadership experience, many walk through their university`s gates pre-programmed to become involved in a broad range of activities. Sports teams, social activities, and school clubs have become all but essential, while excelling in a range of top courses is key landing a job in today`s tough economy.
The need to succeed against what often seem to be unbearable odds have led many to experiment with so-called study drugs, Adderall typically topping the list. While this sort of low-level drug abuse is often tolerated if not expected in many high-pressure schools, it can be very harmful "and can actually hinder long-term academic gains.
Most of the leading academic research shows that earning a graduate degree is more important than ever. A still-stagnant job market combined with a flood of freshly-minted talent has made the market more competitive than in years past. Though earning a master`s degree isn`t a necessity in every field, it can give new graduates an edge. It often has the potential to significantly boost lifetime earning potential, too "sometimes to the tune of millions of dollars over time.
At the same time, more and more students seem to be trading in these long-term goals for more fleeting success in the form of performance-enhancing drugs. It is often true that popping a few Adderall before a big exam will increase focus; doing so over time frequently does lead to higher grades. The drug and others like it are generally quite effective because they have been designed to treat specific medical problems, namely Attention Deficit Disorder and the related Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder. The thing is, on most college campuses, the people taking these drugs have no history of either problem "and the numbers of users are growing nationwide.
"It`s abused more than marijuana and easier to get," Alan DeSantis, a researcher and professor at the University of Kentucky, said of Adderall in a recent CNN report. A recent study he conducted found that 30 percent of entering students at his university had used Adderall or a similar stimulant on a regular basis." Rather than taper off once students settled into the college life, however, the numbers only increased. "Half of all juniors and seniors have used the drugs, the study found, and 80% of upperclassmen in fraternities and sororities have taken them." This raises a number of concerns when it comes to cheating and overall academic integrity. Perhaps more concerning are the health consequences, though.
"As with the steroids taken by athletes, the downside of prescription stimulants appears after they provide the desired short-term competitive benefits," The New York Times said in a 2012 investigative report of students using the drugs to better their academic performance without any medical need for the boost. "Abuse of prescription stimulants can lead to depression and mood swings (from sleep deprivation), heart irregularities and acute exhaustion or psychosis during withdrawal," the Times said. Many doctors also believe that it serves as something of a gateway to other more dangerous drugs.
Over time, students who take stimulants for academic performance find that they need more and more to achieve the same results. Increased dosages often seem to work at first, but can cause a host of medical problems not to mention dependencies and addictions. Those who rely on Adderall to make good grades can often only keep up their routine for a couple of years, less if their habit began in high school. "Using Adderall over an extended period can increase the risk of critical cardiovascular problems and strokes. There are also significant mental health issues associated with the long-term use of Adderall, such as depression, hostility and paranoia," the Coalition Against Drug Abuse has found.
Cutting back on this and similar drugs can be hard for students, particularly those in high-pressure situations. Adderall`s borrowed focus is hard to replicate, though there are a number of much healthier ways to promote solid academic performance without jeopardizing future health and career potential.
Making a detailed calendar is often one of the first steps. Charting out tasks and drawing a detailed timeline can help students stay on top of their many "must-dos." Color-coding assignments and obligations based on general area academics, social life, and work, for instance can help students keep a clear view of what is coming in order to complete things in a timely and efficient way.
Prioritizing sleep and making sure to eat well are also essential. Performance-enhancing drugs can cover over deficiencies in these areas in the short term, but the fact remains that sleep deprivation and poor diet can have lasting impacts where student health is concerned. Getting a grip on them early can set good patterns for success in graduate programs, careers, and the multitude of balancing acts that come with simply existing in the adult world. Talking to a school counselor or guidance specialist can also generate student-specific ideas. Most universities offer these services free of charge, and they are typically confidential. Students who struggle with performance drug use can often find constructive help in these venues.
Adderall and its ilk are serious temptations today, but students need to understand their risks. Pushing off responsibility and proper time management can be very detrimental to both mental and physical health, and can also set up a string of unrealistic expectations of how success should be defined and attained throughout life. Paradoxical as it may seem, cutting the habit now can lead to a more prosperous and happy future.
By Valerie Harris
Valerie Harris is a writer and researcher for MastersDegreeOnline.org. Feel free to check out more of her writing!