Finals Week: College students abuse prescription pills to study

1 in 5 students admit using prescription stimulant once in their lifetime

This is a big week for college students as many prepare for final exams. but research shows more and more of them are using prescription drugs to get by.    

The abuse of prescription drugs by college students is a nationwide problem. Research shows 44 percent of college students who use prescription stimulants use them to study, while 31 percent abuse them to stay awake. Either way, it’s a big problem and one our area is not immune to.

“I haven’t gone to sleep earlier than 2 a.m. every night this week,” said Ben Gosselin, a sophomore at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

It’s one of the most hectic times of the year for college students as all of their hard work throughout the semester comes down to one final week.

“I don’t want to sound derogatory, but I think Hell would be a good word for it,” said Jared Boon, a sophomore at UW-La Crosse.
“I’ve spent more time at the library than I have at my house. I feel like I should be paying rent there,” said Gosselin.

Gosselin and Boon rely on the typical forms of caffeine for energy.

“I usually use coffee,” said Boon.
“Mountain Dew, too. I mix it all in. Last night, I had a lot of Swedish fish and sour patch kids to keep me going,” said Gosselin.

But research shows more and more college students are turning to prescription drugs to help focus during finals week.

“Ritalin and Adderall is pretty prevalent in the school setting,” said Boon.

“These are rarely cases of students seeking out dealers. It’s usually that medication is being shared with friends,” said Rachel Arfstrom, pharmacist at Cass Street Pharmacy.

Some students aren’t aware of the danger, but Ritalin and Adderall are in the same drug category as Hydrocodone, which is a dangerously addictive painkiller.

“Students might exaggerate their symptoms so a physician may bump up the dose of their meds,” said Arfstrom.

Plus, there are other risks involved, such as increased blood pressure or heart rate.

“These medications can worsen agitation or anxiety, so there’s certainly not going to be a calming influence,” said Arfstrom.

And a calm mental state is exactly what is needed when taking that final exam.

“It’s kind of like the finish line of a marathon, like it’s the final sprint so you have to dig deep and push forward,” said Boon.

Not only does prescription stimulant abuse affect a student’s health, but it impacts society as well. Between 2005 and 2010, there was a 134 percent increase in emergency room visits related to abuse of stimulant medications. That’s more than 30,000 emergency room visits a year related to prescription stimulant abuse, so there is also a high cost to society.

About one in five college students admit they have abused a prescription stimulant at least once in their lifetime.