Volume 97, Issue 1
Thursday, May 22, 2003

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Ritalin: the gateway drug to good grades?

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

Ritalin is waking people up, but not the people intended

Rumours have recently begun to circulate about the casual use of the drug (methylphenidate) by people who do not suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder. Due to the drug's ability to boost concentration and memory skills, some students use it to help them focus during stressful times such as exams.

"It's just like a cup of coffee," said Susan Davies, a psychology professor at Western. When students use it to boost their studying skills, it is used to keep the brain alert, Davies said. Ritalin will have this effect on anyone, she added, not only ADD sufferers.

"[Ritalin] should not be used without a prescription," Davies pointed out.

Shafeek Roberts, a pharmacist at Western's On-Campus Pharmacy, confirmed that it is very dangerous to take medicine prescribed to someone else.

"While the short term effects may not be harmful, if Ritalin is used on a continuous basis it could be risky," Roberts said. "Different people react differently to drugs."

"It is a controlled drug," Roberts said. It should not be available to casual users, he added.

"[However], any drug being used for people other than those for whom it is prescribed will often [find its way into the hands of] those people," said Melanie Slade, health education volunteer co-ordinator at Student Health Services.

As Ritalin becomes more commonly prescribed by doctors, the casual use of it has also become more common, Slade explained.

"I've heard of people using Ritalin to study for exams," said Jeff Barnes, a fourth year political science student. "A friend of mine takes Ritalin prescribed to her boyfriend who has ADD to help her concentrate."

Barnes added he does not use Ritalin himself, citing health reasons for not doing so. "I'd put my health before my grades," he said.

"The number of prescriptions of Ritalin has increased in the last five to ten years," Slade said. The unsolicited use of Ritalin is also a fairly new phenomenon, she added. "There is no documentation of this problem, it is not a widespread issue yet."

"I don't have any hard numbers," Davies said, when asked how many students are taking Ritalin that is not prescribed to them. "People should not be handing [Ritalin] around," she added.


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