How to Help Students Understand the Risks of “Study Drugs”

Contributed by Donna Wentworth

Drawing of prescription drug bottles

For college students facing the stress of final exams, taking a “study drug,” a medication usually used for ADHD, might seem like no big deal. After all, if their friends are taking it with no side effects, why shouldn’t they?

Daniel Gittins, AOD coordinator at Duquesne University, warns students that prescription medications are intended only for the individual they are prescribed to and no one else.

For “person A,” he explains, a medication like Ritalin® will have primary benefits, but also secondary effects such as “elevated blood pressure, faster heart rate, etc.” But if “person B” borrows the medication without considering their own medical history – such as a family history of high blood pressure, stress, or heart concerns – “the risks can be far more significant.”

How can you get this message across to students? Here are three strategies you can try:

  • Got Drugs? Take Them Back. Tackle the problem at the community level by participating in a take-back program such as the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day last month. The FDA has additional information about the safe disposal of prescription medications.
  • Student, Know Thyself. MyStudentBody works at the individual level, using scientifically validated methods to help students understand the risks of misusing prescription medications. It also gives them practical information about how to safely manage their medications if they are using them for medical reasons.
  • Parental Guidance Suggested. Help prevent abuse of study drugs before next year’s freshmen show up on campus by reaching out to their parents. MyStudentBody-Parent, an important component of our program, is designed to help parents communicate effectively with students about alcohol and other drugs, including prescription medications. You can log in to the program to access a newly updated, print-ready companion guide, College-bound: Strategies for Parenting Your First-year College Student, and hand it out during orientation.

*MyStudentBody administrators -> If you have questions about how to use MyStudentBody to support your drug abuse prevention efforts, we encourage you to contact Amy Cavender, our Implementation Specialist, by email or phone at (800) 848-3895, ext. 205.

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