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Tuesday November 12, 2019

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Medical journal warns against Ritalin abuse in university

A major medical journal is calling on Canada's universities and colleges to do more to prevent abuse of stimulants, such as Ritalin and Adderall, among its students for enhancing academic achievement.

Such drugs, often prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, have not been shown to significantly improve academic performance among healthy individuals, the Canadian Medical Association Journal argued in an editorial.

And when abused, they carry several risks, including death, the article warned.

"The benefits are overblown, the risks are underplayed and, frankly, there's no really good reason to do this," Dr. Paul Hebert, editor-in-chief of the journal, said in an interview.

The journal estimated anywhere between five and 35 per cent of post-secondary students in Canada abuse these substances.

Hebert said rather than being used for recreational purposes, these drugs are usually used to help students stay awake for prolonged periods in order to study for exams.

"All of us would be better off if we followed our mothers' advice and studied for our courses throughout the semester . . . You're way better off doing that than spending a week before the exam cramming during exam period and using these drugs to stay awake."

Hebert said the issue is separate from cases in which students are prescribed these drugs and using them as directed. He added there are some students, currently not on these drugs, who could benefit from using them properly.

He said it's unclear if the abusers of drugs such as Ritalin during their post-secondary years are more likely to have been prescribed it at some point in their lives.

The risks of abusing such stimulants can be death, addiction or cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure or irregular heart rhythms, the journal warned. Risks are heightened when the drugs are taken in ways in which they were not intended, such as snorting or injection.

The journal urged universities and colleges to create more awareness of stimulant abuse. It also warned campus pharmacies and health professionals dealing with students to take measures to minimize inappropriate use of these drugs.

Hebert said use of stimulants for academic achievement should be viewed the way performance-enhancing drugs are in sports, with such usage seen as "cheating." He had no specific recommendations on what punishments should apply.

Read more at: Montrealgazette.com

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