Nearly a Third of College Kids Think ADHD Meds Boost Grades

From Drugs.com - October 16, 2017

Nearly a Third of College Kids Think ADHD Meds Boost Grades

MONDAY, Oct. 16, 2017 -- Many college students who abuse ADHD drugs mistakenly believe that doing so will lead to better grades, a new survey suggests.

Past research has found that college students commonly misuse stimulant medications such as Ritalin and Adderall as "study aids." That's despite the fact that there is no evidence the drugs help kids who do not have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The new study said that roughly 29 percent of students at nine U.S. colleges thought that stimulant medications boost school performance. Many others -- 38 percent -- were "unsure."

And that misperception was especially common among students who admitted to abusing the drugs.

Just over 11 percent said they'd used stimulant medication for "non-medical" reasons in the past six months. And of that group, almost two-thirds believed the drugs would improve their grades.

The findings came as no surprise to Dr. Jess Shatkin, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City.

But they do highlight an ongoing issue, according to Shatkin, who was not involved in the study.

"When kids do not actually have ADHD, these drugs are not helpful for their school performance," Shatkin said.

More concerning, he said, are the risks of misusing the medications -- such as altered heart rate and blood pressure, insomnia, heightened anxiety, and even hallucinations.

"So no, we do not want students abusing these drugs," Shatkin said.

How do you stop them? It's possible, according to Shatkin, that if more college kids are aware of the reality -- that their grades will not see a Ritalin-fueled rise -- then fewer will try the drugs.

But, he said, the medications are effective at one thing: Helping harried college students stay up later.

"So they will at least finish that paper that's due tomorrow -- even if they wo not get better grades," Shatkin said.

It all points to wider issues, according to Shatkin: Many college students need help with basics like time management, dealing with stress, and knowing how to generally take care of themselves.

Dr. Matthew Lorber is director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City.

He said stimulant abuse is a common problem not just among college students, but high school kids as well.


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