Drug Abuse Is Not the Path to Success

By Hayley Cunningham, Columnist

Everyone else seems to do it all and have it all together: social lives that leave you with a major case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), active involvement in clubs or Greek life, a rockin’ GPA. Plus, they still find time to make it to the gym! How do they do it? To be honest, most of them don’t. Part of becoming an adult is realizing you cannot have everything you want all the time while still taking care of yourself mentally and physically. Growing up is about seeing how far you can push yourself, finding those limits, and then respecting them. It is about prioritizing those things that are most important to your sense of self and personal happiness and discovering how to incorporate them into your life, while accepting there are some things you just cannot fit in.

It seems many of us do not want to grow up; we continue to push ourselves to unhealthy places and to set expectations so high we feel we cannot reach them on our own. Instead of accepting our limits, some try to push those limits back with a pill. While some students are prescribed ADHD medication because they are unable to maintain a functional level of attention without it, others students are taking pills they do not really need.

This is concerning for a number of reasons. First, taking medication that is not prescribed to you can be dangerous. While ADHD medications like Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse can give users laser-like focus for hours, they can also induce sleeplessness, mood swings, anxiety attacks, changes in personality, and even hallucinations. These medications are amphetamines with the potential to push the heart rate to dangerously high levels. They can also be addictive, temporarily increasing the release of dopamine (the chemical responsible for both pleasure and addiction) in the brain, leaving you craving more when the effects have worn off. Our own Dr. Rice of the Furman neuroscience department will be the first to warn you that the neurological impact of unprescribed ADHD medications should not be taken lightly; his research in rats showed Ritalin’s effects on the brain are scarily similar to those of cocaine.

Not only is taking an unprescribed medication dangerous, it is also illegal and against Furman’s Drug Free policy. If you are found using medication that was not prescribed to you, you will receive a $200 fine, 25 hours of community service, one year of disciplinary probation, random drug screenings at your expense, and mandatory drug education. If you are caught a second time, you can expect suspension for at least one semester and possible loss of housing privileges, among other punishments. Users are not the only ones at risk for disciplinary action: sharing your ADHD medication will get you a $150 fine, 15 hours community service, educational programming, and disciplinary probation. Suspension and possible loss of housing privileges are among the more severe punishments should you be caught sharing again. And if you’re actually selling your medication? You can be expelled on your first offence or face a minimum of two semesters academic suspension, a $400 fine, and a host of other punishments. According to Furman policy, even those not directly involved in the exchange of medications are culpable; just being present during the possession, use, or sale of medications will get you a hefty fine, educational programming, and parental notification.

Finally, using an unprescribed substance to get ahead is cheating. It is not only unfair to those students working diligently to do their best within their own abilities, but it is unfair to you. In addition to putting yourself at risk physically, mentally, and legally, you cheat yourself out of a valuable learning experience. If you use unprescribed ADHD medication to achieve your lofty, sometimes unrealistic, goals, you will not learn what you are actually capable of doing and will continue to feel you can only succeed with the help of a pill. No one is capable of doing it all and staying well, but you are capable of more than you know. Do yourself a favor and skip the unprescribed pill. You will be a better person for it.

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