Students who take study drugs

August 26, 2015
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When we think of drug-taking, we usually just associate it with the party lifestyle some of us tend to lead: cannabis, MDMA, pingers, and so on. Largely, it’s something we can easily separate from the world of academia; you have your uni life and you have your social life. But on occasion, the two combine, and students start taking different types of drugs for academic purposes.

Now we don’t mean smoking that joint to make you question the fabric of human existence, and consequently acing your first-year philosophy essay; we’re talking drugs that are going to make you more alert: namely Ritalin, Focalin and Vyvanse. These are generally available over the counter if you have a prescription for conditions like ADHD.

Hijacked spoke to one student who says she finds comfort in taking these prescription drugs. The ideal time is right before an exam, or prior to tackling a hefty assessment that needs to be done in a short space of time.

“I know that, in taking them, I feel more secure and more aware of my study abilities, I guess. It just gives me this rush of energy that makes me work harder, and doesn’t seem to affect me in any other way,” she says.

“I’m already paying so much f*****g money to be here - I may as well fork out a little extra to make sure it’s actually worth my while.”

When asked how she obtains the drugs, she says the process is much the same as purchasing illicit drugs. “I get it from a dealer, just as other users of different types of drugs get theirs,” she says. “It’s a pretty big business from my experience – I’ve come across five different dealers in my two and a half years of uni.”

I’m already paying so much f*****g money to be here - I may as well fork out a little extra to make sure it’s actually worth my while.

And it's a lucrative business, too. Dealers can earn around $5 per tablet, meaning a bottle of 100 Ritalin tablets could earn them up to $500.

But is earning big bucks worth the risk? Like party drugs, is dealing and using these medications actually illegal? The answer is a firm and resounding yes: using these drugs without a prescription from a doctor, or selling them to someone else, is against the law. Penalties include a disqualification from driving, copping a hefty fine or, in extreme cases, prison time.

A University of New South Wales study done by Dr Jason Mazanov found that one in 10 students were taking prescription drugs, and over 15 per cent of these students were taking them for “study only”. Mazanov has also come out and said that he fears Australians are using these drugs at a greater rate than that of students in the US, which is an alarmingly high amount.

Stuart Shortland, owner of the on-campus pharmacy at the University of Newcastle, outlines the dangers of taking these drugs in excess. “If you take Ritalin to excess, you risk addiction, which can lead to excessive aggression and withdrawal symptoms,” he says.

He says there are much better alternatives that are both legal and safer.

“There are many over-the-counter and herbal stress remedies pharmacies can provide to help students to cope during stressful times,” he says. “But the important thing is that you’re careful. Anything can be a poison – it just depends on the dose.”

Jackson Langford

Jackson is studying a Bachelor of Communication degree at the University of Newcastle and is the rightful heir to the throne.

Image: e-Magine Art, Flickr Creative Commons license