‘Smart drugs’ don’t work well and can cause problems – News Block

June 23, 2023: One pill makes you bigger and one pill makes you…smarter?

Whether you’re Alice in Wonderland heading down the rabbit hole or a high school or college student trying to achieve academic excellence, researchers have an important message for you: There’s no such thing as a “pill.” intelligent”. In fact, the non-medical use of prescription stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin by people without a prescription can lead to undesirable results, including lower grades and substance abuse.

Findings of a recent study suggested that the intentional use of “smart drugs” by people without ADHD and with normal mental abilities it did not improve those abilities but rather had the opposite effect. Although the healthy people in the study who took these drugs (Ritalin, Provigil or Dexedrine) seemed more motivated, they needed more time and effort to complete a complicated task, compared to people who took a dummy pill (placebo).

“Our center is interested in how people make decisions and solve problems under conditions of risk, uncertainty, and complexity,” said Elizabeth Bowman, PhD, lead author of the study and business manager of the Center for Brain, Mind, and Markets at University of Melbourne in Australia.

“We found that with these drugs, their actual performance decreased; we also found that the best-performing participants without drugs were the ones most likely to have the largest declines in productivity,” he said.

Medications aren’t as benign as they seem, either.

Bowman said that, in the short term, they can cause anxiety, irritability and insomnia. There’s also evidence that regular use over time could lead to substance use problems that persist well into adulthood.

Old tricks, new drugs

The non-medical use of prescription drugs in academic settings is not new. almost 100 years A few years ago, researchers began to explore whether stimulants could improve performance on math and verbal tasks.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and beyond 3 millions adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, and 62% take medication for it. The data suggests that the higher the proportion of students in any school who are prescribed ADHD medications, the greater the likelihood of non-medical use of these medications. About a quarter of teens are likely to be approached by their peers to sell or give away your medicines before completing high school (grades 8-12), and more than half during college.

The problem is huge, according to the researchers.

“Our team has shown that prescription stimulants are the only class of prescription drugs where the number of young adults using them without a prescription is greater than the number taking prescription stimulants,” said Sean Esteban McCabe, PhD, a professor at the University of from Michigan. School of Nursing in Ann Arbor, and director of the Center for the Study of Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking and Health, known as the DASH Center.

This is especially true on campuses where fraternities and sororities and their partying, binge drinking, and cannabis use are rampant.

Arby, a 26-year-old consultant who lives in Washington, DC, reflected on his time in a fraternity at the University of Maryland-College Park.

“I could tell you that in my fraternity at any given time, we had between five and 10 individual people who were prescribed these drugs and didn’t take them; they ordered them to sell them,” he said. “And it wasn’t hidden either, they talked about it in group chats and brought them to chapter meetings.”

His personal experience with drugs spanned his entire college experience, beginning in his freshman year.

“I had always had trouble sitting down, concentrating, and studying for these intense school projects and tests. And you know, all of a sudden, when you get to college and the workload and intensity gets so high…and there’s a quick and easy fix,” she said.

The drugs “allow you to be in the library for 12, 14, 16 hours straight,” he said. “They allowed me to do things that I never thought I could do in terms of commitment to study and academics. And in that way, they were kind of positive for my growth, to show me that I can work really hard and do well in school and be successful.”

Arby, who asked not to use his last name to protect his privacy, isn’t the only one who believes these drugs improved his overall performance. Study after study points to academic performance as the main motivation for the use of non-medical stimulants. TO survey 2022 of students attending seven US universities said they take these medications because they believe they provide better concentration, less restlessness, increased alertness, the ability to keep track of assignments, and prevent others from having a academic advantage.

But non-medical use can also be a slippery slope.

“More than 75% of young adults who reported non-medical use of prescription stimulants on 10 or more occasions test positive for possible substance use disorder,” said Esteban McCabe.

Even more worrisome is that 40% to 50% inhale the drugs, putting them at higher risk for drug-related problems, he said.

mixed messages

Amelia Arria, PhD, associate chair of the Department of Behavioral and Community Health and director of the Center for Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health in College Park, said she is concerned about the negative impact on students. who really need these drugs.

“There is a lot of evidence to support the safety and efficacy (of these medications) when you are diagnosed with ADHD and you have a doctor on board and you have guidance from the doctor,” he said.

But problems often arise when they are used without such supervision.

Esteban McCabe pointed to the combination of alcohol and prescribed stimulants as an example.

“Many young adults who drink alcohol and use prescription stimulants at the same time have no idea how dangerous these substances can be,” he said.

“Painting is a protective mechanism that prevents people from drinking when they approach potentially dangerous blood alcohol concentrations. But if you take stimulants when you drink, you can override this mechanism and this could have life-threatening consequences.”

Unfortunately, high school and college students aren’t alone when it comes to mixed messages about these drugs—many parents also believe they’re benign.

“There is a lot of research showing that parents and caregivers are the main influence on initiation, and parental permissiveness is a huge risk factor,” Arria said.

Sharon Levy, MD, chief of the Division of Addiction Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, agreed.

“Parents and other caregivers may be less concerned about the behavior because the reason appears to be reasonable,” he said.

“I’ve seen kids who are in the high school age range borrow someone’s ADHD medication before a big final exam, and the parents know it and approve. I think from some parents’ perspective, a lot of kids are taking these medications, they need to be safe, and for these special events, why not help them?”

Levy also said there are many missed opportunities to intervene, especially at younger ages.

“The right time to have these candid conversations is before college,” he said. “Pediatricians see these children routinely and refill prescriptions on children diagnosed with ADHD, much younger than high school. When they come in for these annual physicals, there’s a real opportunity to start talking about things, like prescription drugs should never be shared,” she said.

Levy pointed to the tradeoff between small gains in attention and focus and large losses in sophisticated problem-solving skills, not to mention the addictive potential of stimulant use.

“Unless your attention and focus are really messed up, the tradeoff won’t be worth it,” he said.

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