With midterms week in the rearview mirror and Spring Break just around the bend, LSU students have one last time to party until the finals week crackdown begins. Some students prepare for finals by becoming best friends with Club Mid and CC’s. Others take a less conventional approach.
Students turn to “study drugs” like Vyvanse and Adderall to help them stay awake and focus while studying or taking a test, but if you don’t have ADD or ADHD, should that be considered cheating?
In a random survey of 100 LSU students, 42 students said they have used study drugs to help them study or take a test. Only seven of those students reported having a prescription for the medication. Twenty-six students said the illicit use of ADHD medication is cheating, 57 said it isn’t and 17 said they were unsure.
In the survey, a few students compared using ADHD medication to drinking lots of caffeine.
Assistant director of Wellness and Health Promotion for the LSU Student Health Center Kathryn Saichuk dismissed that comparison.
“It is a completely different affect on neurotransmitters in the brain,” she said. “In particular, the genes that carry the dopamine neurotransmitter”
Communication studies and sociology senior Stephonie Rodgers, who also compared Adderall to coffee, doesn’t consider the illicit use “study drugs” cheating.
“You still have to know the material regardless,” she said. “I don’t think it is a form of cheating unless it will give you the answers to your test.”
Saichuk agreed by saying the drugs don’t make you smarter, but only keep you focused and help you to concentrate. However, she said it is a form of cheating and compared it to athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs.
History and anthropology junior Lauren F.*, was diagnosed with ADHD in the second grade.
“I was in English class,” she said. “I caught myself daydreaming and I was like maybe if I pay attention now I wont have to study as hard later.”
The harder she tried to focus, the more distracted she got.
Students without ADHD get an unfair advantage because the drug gives them an edge she said.
“I think it’s stupid and lazy,” she said. “But is it cheating? I mean, I don’t think so.”
History senior Marissa Johnson, who has had prescriptions for Concerta, Aderall, and Vyvanse, also thinks its unfair for students without a prescription to use the drugs to help them study and take tests, however she considers it a form of cheating.
“To be honest if the medicine isn't prescribed, the after effects are almost punishment enough for some people,” Johnson said.
Anyone can get side effects from these drugs Saichuk explained. Side effects can include increased heart rate and blood pressure, restlessness, anxiety, loss of appetite and the tendency to repeat actions such as pulling your hair or twiddling your fingers.
One of the biggest concerns of taking ADHD medication that isn’t prescribed to you is the dosage. Saichuk explained that medical professionals are very careful when prescribing the type of medication and specific dosage for each patient because of side effects.
When someone takes the wrong dosage for their body weight, they run the risk of having a stroke, psychosis, or amphetamine induced behavior.
In a National College Health Assessment survey conducted in the spring of 2015, 1,349 LSU students responded to questions about their drug use.
About 14 percent of students reported being diagnosed with ADHD, 9.7 percent said the ADHD affected their academic performance and almost 23.6 percent reported difficulty sleeping.
“I had too much energy to go to sleep,” Rodgers said after taking Adderall for the first time her sophomore year. “It’s like having insomnia.
Instead of helping her focus, the drug had her shaking on her toilet for 45 minutes. She vowed never to take it again.
“You could compare it to a jet engine on an airplane being at its highest performance and then all of a sudden throttling down to nothing,” Saichuk said.
Biology senior Jocelynn Brazill, who has been taking Adderall since her freshman year in college said the drug doesn’t work the same for all people and that’s what students fail to understand. Instead of helping with concentration, some students end up cleaning his or her room for hours.
“I do think it could be considered cheating,” Brazill said. “It’s abused by others who just take it to take it because they think it’s going to enhance their performance but they don’t actually understand how ADD works.”
Aside from the significant health risks attached to illicit drug use, LSU has no specific rules in regards to drug use and cheating.
Assistant director for Student Advocacy & Accountability Rachel Champagne said that any person who uses medication that is not prescribed to them is committing a crime. In some cases, it can be a felony charge.
Illicit use of ADHD medication is a violation of the LSU Code of Student Conduct section 10.2.F., which states, “Possession, use, public intoxication, sharing, furnishing or distribution of illegal drugs, intoxicants, controlled substances and/or drug paraphernalia; including the distribution, use or possession of prescription medications contrary to a valid prescription.”
Using medication that is not prescribed to succeed on an exam or for any other reason would result in a charge under behavioral misconduct.
“There are several layers of how charges of violations are assigned and I cannot say for certain if this would be an issue of academic misconduct,” Champagne said. “It would depend on the specifics of the case.”
*Student Lauren F. did not want her last name to be used in this story.