Students Are Using Prescription Drugs for Better Grades



By Itzel Quintana

[dropcap]E[/dropcap]xams, quizzes and papers are among the many responsibilities students have to balance halfway through the semester, and it only gets harder as final exams approach.

With busy lives it is easy for students to procrastinate and wait to study until the day before a test.

While choosing not to sleep at all may seem like the most logical solution to cramming, 6.4 percent of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 reported the use of Adderall as a study aid, a national survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration found in 2009.

Full-time students are twice as likely as part-timers to take Adderall, the survey revealed.

For students facing the pressure of maintaining competitive GPAs caffeine might not be sufficient. Many students opt for stronger stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin. These study drugs boost energy and increase focus, according to students that take them.

Adderall and Ritalin are prescription amphetamines that are used to treat ADHD by helping users decrease hyperactivity and maintain concentration and focus.

While the drug acts to calm down those with attention disorder, it stimulates those who otherwise don’t need it, triggering the brain receptors responsible for focus, alertness, and clear thinking.

If not taken in the proper dosage, as prescribed by a doctor, the user can become addicted and experience serious health issues such as irregular heartbeat, anxiety, depression and possibly psychosis.

Adderall and Ritalin are classified as Schedule II Substances by the Drug Enforcement Administration, alongside cocaine and methamphetamine. Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse.


The DEA classifies drugs, substances and chemicals into five schedules, depending on the drug’s accepted medical use and potential for abuse and dependency.

Despite the stimulants requiring a prescription, it isn’t hard for students to get their hands on them. Student users often fake symptoms in order to get a prescription or buy them from a friend, said Sandra Alfaro, a SAC psychological services intern.

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“Students seem to think they know how to take Adderall but they don’t understand that just taking it doesn’t work,” said Billie Ganong, a staff nurse at the health center. “I doubt any of the students that did take them did any better on any test.”

Arguments questioning the ethics of students using stimulants as an easy option to boost their GPA have been brought up at college campuses across the United States.

Untitled-4“I think using drugs to enhance focus should be considered cheating because students aren’t really doing any of the work themselves,” said Alejandro Covarrubias, a mechanical engineering student at SAC.

Some students and staff compare the use of Adderall and Ritalin in order to get better grades to athletes using steroids in order to perform better on the field.

“I can see the connections between performance drugs used by athletes and prescription stimulants but I don’t know if I would call it cheating, because there are students with those medical issues that need the drugs,” Alfaro said.

Arguments against classifying the use of study drugs as cheating brings up the consumption of coffee, Red Bull and other energy drinks by students in order to stay up later and increase focus.

Others say that Adderall and Ritalin have no real affect on people that use them without a prescription. They argue that instead of helping students stay focused they only intensify exam day anxiety.

“There is no magic pill that is going to help you get better grades. The best thing for students to do is consistently study and get a good night’s sleep,” Ganong said.

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