You've Been Lied To About Drugs


Since being in college, I have heard been warned about the many dangers of taking drugs. There are many conversations about how drugs like alcohol, marijuana, and party drugs affect our bodies and brains. While that is important, I wonder why we don’t get any warnings about drugs we might be prescribed by our doctors, specifically psychiatric medications. After all, depression is extremely prevalent in college-aged adults and so is the prescription of drugs like Prozac, Xanax, and Adderall. College students are also frequently abusing prescription drugs like Xanax and Adderall in order to relax or focus on studying. Our relationship with these psychiatric drugs is unhealthy and dishonest. I’ve outlined a couple of the most concerning things about psychiatric drugs that every college student should be aware of before considering taking these drugs.

Psychiatric drugs aren’t as simple as we may see them. While these drugs can be effective, and even life-changing for many, it’s troubling how certain medications are seen as “happy pills” in the media when in reality it’s far more complicated. Drugs like Xanax aren’t typically meant to be prescribed for long-term periods, and popular antidepressants are meant to be taken along with therapy and lifestyle changes. When people stay on these drugs for long periods of time, people can become dependent on them or eventually feel like they aren’t making a difference. Benzodiazepines (like Xanax) can even cause major withdrawal symptoms from irritation all the way to life-threatening seizures. These risks increase dramatically when someone is taking Xanax without a prescription, or has been taking prescription Xanax for a long time and then try to go off it. It is incredibly important to talk to your doctor whenever you want to change the dosage or even stop using a medication in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms.


There are also health risks from taking psychiatric drugs long term. It’s easy to think of ADHD drugs as “study drugs” or drugs that college students take to focus on writing an upcoming paper or studying for final exams. One study reported 34% of the students surveyed used these stimulants illegally. But the effects of these amphetamines last beyond the initial dose. Many people report negative symptoms from these drugs, like nervousness, or shakiness. Since amphetamines are stimulants, they can cause even more harrowing symptoms such as hallucinations, irregular heartbeats, and people can--and have in the past--overdosed on these drugs, some resulting in tragic deaths.


In no way do I want to discourage people from receiving help for their mental health issues. I have received professional help in the past and it has made lasting, rewarding impacts on my life. However, I have heard countless stories of friends and peers taking drugs that have been prescribed by a doctor only to have adverse effects that they weren’t even warned about. It is important to always be an advocate for your own health and understand the side effects and the mechanisms of drugs you’re being prescribed.


This caution and education are doubly important if you are going to take these drugs illegally. Do your research and understand the risk you are taking. Even if a drug is commonly used for studying or productivity, it may be less effective than everyone is making it out to be, especially if it wasn’t specifically prescribed to you. Ultimately, drugs incite change in your body and you could have an adverse reaction. It is important to be extremely cautious when deciding what drugs, prescribed or recreational, you put in your body.