Thursday, April 1, 2021

Stress and Study Drugs

The Office of Student Affairs (OSA) Harm Reduction team wants to give students some information about stress and study drugs/ADHD medications (Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta etc.) and answer some of the often-posed questions on this topic. Why do people use these medications? What are the risk factors? How can they be used more safely? What are some alternatives? How do I know if I need help with my substance use and where can I go to get it?

When we are discussing students who use study drugs, it is important to note that we are not talking about persons who take medications that are prescribed to them, which can and do have many benefits for them. It is considered safe, needed and useful for them and their diagnosis. It is not considered safe to be used otherwise or in other ways than prescribed.

Saying that this past year has been stressful would be quite an understatement. The month of April is possibly the busiest and most stressful time of the year for a lot of students. Some stresses in life can be good; getting a new job, getting accepted into a Graduate program or more. Stress, in general, is not a bad thing. It is our body’s way of telling us to pay attention and even to protect ourselves. Chronic and/or extreme stresses can be unhelpful to us in the short-term and harmful to us in the long-term.

There are many external factors at play here that may not be able to be addressed in the moment but there are a few things an individual can do for themselves to lower their overall stress and increase their sense of well-being. OSA’s Midsummer Mindfulness article lists quite a few examples and also links in the benefits for persons who use substances, persons with addictions issues, and persons with substance use disorder.

Stress and anxiety about grades are, of course, contributing factors for why students use study drugs. Some less obvious reasons why students use study drugs? Low perceived self-efficacy, low enjoyment in courses, reliance on external validation, experiencing a mental health issue and poor or unknown accommodation for special needs are a few examples.

Carleton Wellness has lots of information on how to increase individual overall well-being. Health and Counselling gives students access to counselling services that are currently available virtually. The Centre for Student Academic Support (CSAS) offers modules, learning sessions, and more to help students increase their academic skills. The Academic Advising Centre (AAC) offers academic advising to support students with academic success. If you are a person with physical, mental, or learning disabilities, the Paul Menton Centre (PMC) is available to help accommodate student needs.

Using study drugs may or may not increase short-term memory (more research is needed) but the negative short and long-term health effects can outweigh this perceived benefit. There is no data to suggest that using study drugs increases an individual’s GPA or aides in their overall academic success. They can be harmful or even dangerous. ADHD medications are powerful stimulants when taken by individuals who do not have this diagnosis and/or at larger doses than prescribed. Some of the side-effects of using study drugs include dependence, irregular heartbeat, paranoia, stroke, overdose and even death in extreme cases.

Harm reduction – reducing the harms associated with study drugs – is our main focus for students. If you are going to use these substances, have a plan, try to limit your use over a longer period, and don’t use them alone. Avoid poly-use (multiple substances/alcohol intake) and do not use study drugs while taking decongestant cold medication. With COVID-19 physical distancing guidelines still in effect, make sure to wash your hands, avoid touching your face, wear a mask, stay 2 meters apart, and don’t share straws, drinks, or related items with others.

Try to be mindful of how often or how much you are using substances. If you see a pattern of change in your use, are questioning or becoming concerned about your use, know you are not alone and that there are many resources to support you. One good way to check-in is by using a quick self-assessment tool like Wellness Together Canada or TAO.

OSA’s Safer Substance Use webpage has a lot of information on Carleton specific and public resources for persons who use substances, persons questioning their substance use, persons with addictions issues, and persons with substance use disorder. On the webpage, you can also find links to our (currently virtual) ‘All People All Pathways’ peer support meetings that have been made available through our continued partnership with the Community Addictions Peer Support Association. There are 2 weekly meetings available to both students and staff, respectively.

This Wednesday, April 7 at 1:00 p.m., Carleton Wellness and Stigma Ends at CU will be doing an IG Live session to talk about stigma, substance use and Carleton’s All People All Pathways peer support meetings, join in!

If you need further assistance or more information about harm reduction, contact the OSA’s Harm Reduction and Conduct Manager Dillon Brady.

Thursday, April 1, 2021 in , ,
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