Study Drugs: Informed Consent
Every year, in colleges all across the country, students pressured to meet due dates and requirements feel the need to supplement their studies with something more than a tutoring session. Rather than reaching for the coffee pot, some students assess their need for alertness and focus beyond the scope of America’s favorite stimulant (caffeine).
The result is the use of prescription medications like Adderall or Ritalin by students who aren’t prescribed the medication for ADHD. While some sources suggest that full time students using Adderall is 6.4%, these studies cannot estimate how many of those students put thoughtful consideration into the true risks and rewards of using the drug.
I am a big supporter of the notion that people should be allowed to put whatever substances into their bodies that they want, as long as they are able to pay for them and maintain their responsibilities. However, this view has some exceptions, one of which is taking prescription drugs when they don’t know if they are safe or not.
There is a reason that the drugs are for prescription only; there is something potentially dangerous about improper usage of them. To determine whether or not a drug is appropriate for a person, you must first understand what it is that the drug does.
When a person ingests a dose of a study drug (we’ll look at Adderall in this case) a series of chemical reactions takes place in the brain, which can be very, very simply explained in this video. The end result of these reactions is increased alertness, loss of appetite, dry mouth, and many others.
The problem with this is that increasing dopamine in a brain that has a normal amount means creating an excessive amount of dopamine. This kind of stimulation can set up a short-order reward system in the brain, in which the brain wants to feel good, and it wants to feel good now. This style of reward system in the brain is frequently seen in people who become addicted to drugs.
It’s kind of scary when you think about how Adderall works, when comparing it to how another drug, cocaine, functions in the brain. In addition to increasing the amount of dopamine released, cocaine also prevents dopamine from being taken out of the system.
The point I’m trying to drive home here is that the two drugs react in very similar ways in the brain, and I don’t think that it’s hard to understand how addictive these two drugs are when compared in that sense.
While I do believe that people should have the right to control what they put in their body, I do also believe that they should appreciate the magnitude of the decision that it may present with certain substances. In the case of trying to pass a test or a class, I think that many other avenues to success may be found that don’t carry nearly as much risk.
Not everyone will think this way, and as a result, study drugs will continue to be relevant on college campuses. Just realize what you’re signing up for.