FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 12, 2013
SCHUMER: NUMBER OF NY STUDENTS TAKING STIMULANTS LIKE ADDERALL AS A “STUDY DRUG” IS SKYROCKETING – SENATOR ASKS NY COLLEGES TO TIGHTEN STANDARDS FOR PRESCRIBING DRUG THAT CAN PUT STUDENTS’ HEALTH AT RISK
Estimates Show Between 15-35% of College Students Frequently Use Easy-To-Obtain Stimulants, Like Adderall, As a Study Tool Without A Prescription; Abuse of These Drugs Without Appropriate ADD/ADHD Diagnosis Can Lead to Depression, Anxiety, Even Psychosis
Schumer Encourages Colleges to Institute Tougher New Standards for Diagnosis and Monitoring of Students Seeking Adderall or Other Amphetamine-Based Medications – Or, If Resources Are Unavailable, Colleges Should Not Prescribe Adderall In-House
Schumer: ADHD Stimulant Drugs Should Not Be A Tool for Studying
Today on a conference call, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer 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 on the call – 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.”
On the call, Schumer provided estimates of the number of college students abusing such drugs per county. 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.
Schumer noted that some health centers at colleges and universities across the country have started focusing more on this issue, in order to reduce risk to student’s who might abuse drugs like Adderall, as well as to improve academic integrity. These schools have implemented rigorous processes that are aimed at ensuring that students who require medication for ADD/ADHD have the proper ways and means to access it, and at deterring students using this ADD/ADHD medication for improved concentration and studying purposes. Schumer highlighted several specific proposals that New York schools and universities should consider in order to tighten the rules for diagnosis of ADD/ADHD and the over-prescription of amphetamine-based medications:
o For students diagnosed at a campus health clinic:
§ require formal contracts and follow-up diagnostics for that student
§ require detailed medical, educational, and psychological history
o For students diagnosed outside of campus health clinic, and seeking to refill prescription:
§ require mental health evaluations with qualified health practitioner to verify diagnoses
§ require parent, guardian verification of diagnoses
o Offer short-term counseling, time management and procrastination workshops, and medication consultation to students with prescription
o Institute a program during freshman orientation that informs students of the potential side-effects of stimulant abuse and its addictive nature
o If the university clinic does not feel it has the resources to properly diagnose and monitor students seeking these drugs, they should not diagnose or fill prescriptions for ADD/ADHD.
§ Offer list of community mental health professionals that can aid student in seeking this medication
Schumer emphasized that these steps can be taken by restructuring of existing programs; they do not necessarily require more resources, just new procedures and methods for current staff. And, Schumer said, if colleges truly feel they don’t have the resources to accommodate these recommendations, Schumer suggested that they require outside practitioners to make these diagnoses.
Schumer pointed to several colleges and universities across the country have taken important steps in cracking down on the rising abuse of amphetamine-based drugs like Vyvanse, Adderall and Ritalin. For example, Fresno State does not make diagnoses at their health center, partly due to their concern with having the time and resources for an appropriate diagnoses, and the repercussions and responsibility associated with prescribing this drug. Students can, however, fill prescriptions at the health center with an outside diagnosis. SUNY Maritime College has banned controlled substances that are obtained without a physician’s order and New York University provides information on prescription drug misuse during Freshman orientation.
Based on the most conservative estimates of students abusing stimulants like Adderall, studies show at least 15% of college students abuse these drugs each year, which translates into an estimated 75,000 college students in Upstate New York. A breakdown appears below:
o In the Capital Region, an estimated 10,505 students use stimulants like Adderall for non-medical purposes
o In Central New York, an estimated 11,248 students use stimulants like Adderall for non-medical purposes
o In the Rochester Finger Lakes Region, an estimated 11,056 students use stimulants like Adderall for non-medical purposes
o In the Hudson Valley, an estimated 13,044 students use stimulants like Adderall for non-medical purposes
o In Western New York, an estimated 12,695 students use stimulants like Adderall for non-medical purposes
o In the Southern Tier, an estimated 10,882 students use stimulants like Adderall for non-medical purposes
o In the North Country, an estimated 4,761 students use stimulants like Adderall for non-medical purposes
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter appears below:
Dear Chancellor Zimpher and President Anglin:
I am writing to bring your attention to the issue and prevalence of “academic doping” in New York state institutions of higher education. Academic doping occurs when students abuse stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin without a legitimate diagnosis or 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. Studies have shown 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. When used properly to treat legitimately diagnosed attention disorder, drugs like Adderall and Ritalin can help students focus and learn. We do not intend to interfere with students being able to access the medication they need.
Many colleges across the country have recognized this increasing threat and taken action to educate and protect their students. As far as I know, there is no uniform policy in place for New York institutions. I am, however, pleased that certain individual campuses have policies and practices in place to address this important issue. For example, SUNY Maritime College has banned controlled substances that are obtained without a physician’s order and New York University provides information on prescription drug misuse during Freshman orientation. Many of your campuses may have policies or practices in place that can make a difference. Its practices like these that are a good start to a comprehensive plan or policy that should be in place in New York. I hope work will begin to share this information in a more formal way to protect and help New York students while ensuring that students’ privacy remains intact.
I ask that we work together to explore tighter controls on these prescription drugs and help for students who may be at risk for abuse. Potential policies could include:
· Requiring formal contracts and follow-up diagnostics for students diagnosed at a campus health clinic;
· Requiring detailed medical, educational, and psychological history for students seeking to fill a prescription for drugs like Adderall at a university clinic;
· Instituting a program during freshman orientation that informs students of the potential side-effects of stimulant abuse;
· Or, if the university clinic feels it does not have the resources to properly diagnose and monitor students seeking these drugs, they should not diagnose or fill prescriptions for ADD/ADHD.
Thank you for you continued work and advocacy on behalf of New York’s students. I look forward to working with you on this important endeavor.