Schumer takes on students abusing stimulants - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

Schumer takes on students abusing stimulants

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WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today asked New York colleges and universities to implement new standards that would make it more difficult for college students to acquire amphetamine-based drugs like Adderall without a legitimate diagnosis and prescription.

Various studies have shown that these stimulants, intended for those with Attention Deficit (and Hyperactivity) Disorder (ADD/ADHD), are widely abused on college campuses and that between 15% and 35% of college students nationwide take these drugs illicitly as a study tool.

Schumer noted that when these drugs are abused, particularly by students who are not actually diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, they can lead to a multitude of serious negative side-effects, including depression, anxiety, and even psychosis. 

Many colleges across the country have recognized this threat and taken action, and Schumer wrote a letter to SUNY President Nancy Zimpher and President of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU) Laura Anglin to ask that New York public and private colleges voluntarily implement tighter controls on the accessibility and attention to such stimulants, where resources allow.

Specifically, Schumer is advising that colleges take a look at a number of strategies – which he spelled out– that will focus on better diagnostics and promote awareness of the effects of abuse. If adequate resources are unavailable, Schumer stated that colleges should not prescribe Adderall and similar drugs in-house. Schumer pointed out that these controls pose no impediment to legitimate diagnoses, but can help colleges stem the tide of easy-to-obtain "study drugs" that pose significant risk of abuse.

"When used properly to treat a legitimately diagnosed attention disorder, drugs like Adderall and Ritalin can help students focus and learn, but all too often these cases are the minority on college campuses. Plain and simple: using Adderall as a study drug is academic doping, and what's more, it can lead to abuse and serious negative effects like depression, anxiety, and in some cases, psychosis," said Schumer. "That's why I'm asking New York colleges to help raise awareness of the potential for abuse and tighten the controls on the diagnosis and prescription of these drugs, by looking at what resources they have and restructuring their current programs to crack down on fakers. This is a matter of student health, safety, and academic integrity, and we need to look at all the options when it comes to keeping potentially addictive stimulants out of the hands of our students who don't really need them."

Schumer highlighted a few of the major health risks related to abusing amphetamine-based drugs like Adderall. As a Schedule II drug, Adderall has high risk for dependence and addiction, and when combined with other drugs like alcohol and marijuana, they can have other serious side-effects, like hypertension, seizures, mydriasis and an increase in blood pressure. Abusing these drugs, particularly when they aren't needed for ADD/ADHD can lead to depression, anxiety, and even psychosis. Even if these drugs are not abused, common side effects of the drug include lack of appetite, increased blood pressure, headache, dry mouth, insomnia and weight loss.

According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services SAMHSA called "Nonmedical Use of Adderall among Full-Time College Students," full time college students 18-22 are twice as likely to use Adderall nonmedically than those not in college. Nearly 90% of the full-time college students who had used Adderall nonmedically in the past year also were binge alcohol drinkers and more than half were heavy alcohol users. Those students who had used Adderall nonmedically in the past year were more likely to have used illicit drugs than their non-Adderall using counterparts: almost 3 times more likely to use marijuana, 8 times more likely to use cocaine, 8 times more likely to use tranquilizers nonmedically and 5 times more likely to use pain relievers nonmedically.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports that 15% of college students have admitted to using some form of psychotherapeutic drugs for non-medical, academic uses. A study at the University of Kentucky found that of 1,811 undergraduates studied, 34% reported illegal use of ADHD stimulants, particularly during periods of high academic stress to battle fatigue and increase reading comprehension. Other studies in which college students are asked to identify how many of their friends they've noticed using these drugs for study purposes puts the percentage even higher, which suggests that the ‘self-reporting' studies may be a conservative or baseline percentage of nonmedical stimulant users. Between 1993 and 2003, the number of prescriptions given for Adderall has more than tripled.

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