Mythbusters: ADHD Stimulants

    Have you or anyone you know ever taken ADHD medications without a prescription, maybe to study for a final exam or to complete a big project? You’re not alone; recent studies have shown that between 15-30% of post-secondary students have misused substances such as Adderall, Vyvanse, Ritalin, and Dextroamphetamine to better their academic performance. Yale has said that ADHD medications are the third most abused drug among college and university students, just behind marijuana and opioids but rising fast. 

   If you’re considering popping an Adderall tablet to get ahead this exam season, allow me to change your mind. Let’s get into debunking a few of the most popular myths:

  1. 1. “Stimulants help me get better grades!”

    As post-secondary students, we value truth. The research speaks for itself and has proven that students who use ADHD medications without a diagnosis or perscription have a lower GPA than those who don’t. See this paper published by the Canadian Government- https://www.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/drugfacts_stimulantadhd_1.pdf 

  2. 2. “There are no bad side effects!”

    Stimulants cause increased heart rate, insomnia, nausea, and dizziness. In serious cases, they can cause seizures, stroke, psychotic episodes, and dangerously high body temperatures. Long term use increases your risk for all of those, plus mood changes such as depression, anxiety, and paranoia. When being prescribed ADHD stimulants by a doctor, they take a complete medical history to ensure you are not at risk for complications. Without proper evaluation and monitoring, you may not even realize how stimulants could negatively affect your body. Visit https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/problematic-prescription-drug-use/prescription-stimulants.html for more information.

  3. 3. “It’s just one time!”

    This is hands-down the most dangerous myth that students (or anyone) can believe in. As many of us know first or secondhand, nobody intends to become an addict. There are many people with a genetic predisposition to addiction and just as many who use a substance “recreationally,” until they wake up and realize they don’t know how to function without it.  ADHD stimulant medications are a Schedule III drug in Canada, meaning they are approved for use with a prescription but are highly controlled due to their severe addictive properties and potential for abuse.

Now you may be thinking: “I’m not going to listen to a stranger on the internet!” Normally I would agree with you, but not today. Please never take prescription medications without a doctor's approval, no matter how great it sounds. 

    If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, consider reaching out. Here are some resources:

ConnexOntario (Addictions HelpLine) : 1-866-531-2600 

Good2Talk (Mental Health for Youth, ages 17-25) : 1-866-925-5454

Wellness Together Canada : 1-866-585-0445

Kids Help Phone : 1-800-668-6868