Students say high stress levels lead to abuse of ADHD medication

By Calla Hinton, contributor

11/28/15

Students at UNC Asheville say increased pressure to succeed academically leads to the abuse of medications meant to treat ADHD, a problem that’s becoming more prevalent on campus.

“I don’t necessarily think there’s a problem with ADHD medication abuse in colleges, but there is definitely a problem with the stress and pressures of our education system in general,” said UNC Asheville transfer student Sidney Jones.

A Medicine Abuse Project survey found one out of five college students report abusing ADHD medication as opposed to one in seven non-college students.

“I believe it also has to do with the social hyping of drugs like Adderall, like when people would find out I had a prescription they would ask me for some because some of their friends said it would help them in school. I never really understood the appeal of it,” said Zoe Graham, a former UNCA student.

The Medicine Abuse Project study also found almost 62 percent of college students report being offered these drugs, and 31 percent said they accepted and abused the drugs.

“I think that the main reason college students start abusing these drugs is because they are really stressed and we feel the drive to do well in our classes that overwork us for no reason,” Jones said.

Jones said college students seem more likely to start abusing ADHD medications because faculty seem to expect more and more out of their students. The students, who are already afraid of falling behind, turn to drug abuse.

“I think a lot of folks struggle with grit and resilience, balancing expectations and  appropriately defining what success looks like for them,” said Jackie McHargue, UNCA dean of students.

McHargue said students put large amounts of pressure on themselves in order to get good grades, but the university wants to graduate healthy and happy individuals.

According to UNCA police officials, there were 12 arrests and 41 disciplinary referrals because of drug abuse violations last year alone.

“Although the abuse of these drugs tends to be a problem on campus, I don’t think campus police should be able to do much more about it than they already do,” Jones said. “I don’t think people need to be micromanaged by the university they’re paying to attend.”

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