The pressure of the year’s first exam-and-essay crunch is driving some students at Canadian universities to look for help in study drugs. A dealer might charge $20 for a single pill of the prescription Adderall, but students under stress are willing to pay.
A few weeks ago, before midterm season, that same pill might have cost $5. Students who have used a range of medications commonly prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, say they can help casual users focus for hours, study stacks of material or write papers through the night without fatigue.
Nearly 4 per cent of students who have no medical need for the drugs take them to cope with academic demands, despite risks to their health, according to a major national study released this year. Many buy them from friends or classmates with legitimate prescriptions. Schools are aware of the problem – and the ethical questions – but have few tools to combat it.
The Globe and Mail asked student journalists across the country to probe the use of study drugs on their campus. In more than 20 interviews, students said they turned to the drugs, often before exams, because they had too many non-academic commitments or felt anxious to get good marks to be accepted to graduate school. Others confessed that they had procrastinated. Nearly every one said the drugs gave them a clear boost. The Globe contacted the students to verify the interviews. All of them declined to be identified on the record, out of concern about harming their academic or job prospects.