College Students & ADHD: medication or meditation

by Gina Orange on July 12, 2010

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Last week, a friend emailed me a link to a video of a recent “60 Minutes” (see video below) television show reporting on a dangerous new trend on campuses: The pressure to do better in school that is driving many college students to abuse ADHD medications to attain mental alertness.

I’d heard about this before, but what was more alarming is that the phenomenon was portrayed as being fairly acceptable, and not a major cause of concern for the welfare of the students.

study-drugsAccording to the Washington Post, more and more of our nation’s college students are using “study drugs.” This phenomenon goes way beyond the excessive consumption of coffee and other caffeine-based drinks that have become part of the college scene.

Students self-medicating is practically the norm, according to the “60 Minutes” segment (below), “Boosting Brain Power.” Students admitted to using non-prescribed ADHD medication to get the edge on cramming for exams, allowing them to push through “all-nighters” with the help of substances. One student likened this practice to using steroids for enhanced sports performance.

According to a study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, as far back as 2002, more than 7 million Americans were using bootleg prescription stimulants, and 1.6 million of those users were of student age. The media has continued to report over time that this problem is getting far worse.

ABC News featured an alarming report about the rising use of powerful prescription drugs by students trying to deal with the stress of studying, writing papers and exams. But these drugs come with extremely damaging effects.

Students-classroom“They’re using performance enhancing drugs, almost like academic steroids,” said Dr. Eric Heiligenstein, head of psychiatry for the University of Wisconsin health services. Heiligenstein says study drugs basically work like speed, with a powerful effect on the central nervous system. Known side effects include: difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, headaches, upset stomach, irritability, mood swings, depression, racing heartbeat and dizziness.

I am certainly not opposed to taking medicine when prescribed by a physician, but for students who are just looking for a temporary “brain-booster,” is it really worth it? Particularly when thousands of students are enjoying a far higher and more sustained level of mental acuity through 20 minutes of Transcendental Meditation practice. In addition, many students with bonafide cases of ADHD are now meditating to successfully come off their ADHD medications (with their physician’s permission).

My wish is that “60 Minutes” would do a follow-up show about how the Transcendental Meditation technique is giving college students the sustained alertness they need for academic success—and also helping students who suffer from a debilitating learning disorder restore healthy brain functioning and enjoy a more productive, satisfying life.

So if you have any contacts at “60 Minutes” let me know!

See the CBS video here:


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  3. Childhood ADHD rate increases 22% in the U.S. Can the TM technique help?
  4. New research finds that college students reduce stress, anxiety, and “perfectionistic thinking” through TM
  5. College freshmen at 25-year low in emotional health, study says
  • Asher

    It is crazy for me to think that taking these drugs is becoming the norm. Some one must be making millions of dollars from this but the side effects criminal…

    Why are these things still happening in the world? We have solutions already…

  • Eric – Reiki Music

    I have to agree with the comment form Asher, it’s crazy to think that drugs are becoming the norm. The pharmaceutical companies keep pushing more and more drugs as the answer. They soothe our need for a quick fix.

    If more people would learn to be in tune with their bodies and spend some time on themselves in meditation, healing, and diet, we would need a lot fewer pills and trips to the doctor.

  • rehanna

    I think people should include yoga and meditation in thier school’s curriculum more and educate people. People are making money on these drugs that ahve fatal side effects and they dont care once they get thier profits…

  • Hallvard

    Meditation together with Ayurvedic herbs is the solution to ADHD.

  • nelson chen

    If people can get better results from all those natural practice like Meditation, vacation, Chinese Qigong, Tai ji, golfing, pray and much more, why still take these drugs? I don’t get it. You can read my blog about medication or meditation.

  • anonymous

    As I struggled through 4 years of rigorous experience at a prestigious undergraduate institution, I knew of a few friends who used these drugs without a prescription for either a long exam or to stay up all night before a paper deadline.

    It upset me more that they were giving themselves an unfair advantage in the academic arena, rather than the potential health consequences. The worst part is that it works, and it’s too expensive and impractical to have regular drug testing before every exam or every 20 page paper assignment.

    • anonymous

      Actually looking back, these friends were cheating themselves out of much needed skills for later in life.

      I learned how to manage my time efficiently, but I have a friend who used them throughout graduate school as well and lived on 4 hours of sleep / night for 2 years.

      Why can’t our generation tackle our challenges head-on instead attempt every potentially harmful short cut?!

      Paper grades are not the only way to fail…

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