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College Students & ADHD: medication or meditation

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: