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I saw a link to an article today in my twitter feed from @MorningsideCtr.  It was an article from The New York Times, featuring stories from high school students about their use of study drugs to compete in some of the elite schools in the States. A similar conversation had come up in my EPSY 322 - Students with Special Needs - course the other night after one of my classmates presented on the topic of ADHD.  And after reading some of the accounts from students, most of them agreed that it had nothing to do with getting high.  Instead, many of these students felt they needed the help of drugs to cope with the overwhelming demands placed on them by schools and society.  

A 17-year-old girl from Austin, Texas said that she started taking her younger brother's Focalin prescription to get caught up after she missed a week of school:

        "The benefits were amazing. I had been sick a week before, and in one night, I caught up on several physics         and calculus assignments and knocked-out the first act of Hamlet. But the productivity was just one of three
        perks that came from that little 20mg pill: I was able to stay up until 3am, then get up again at 6am feeling
        completely rested, more so than if I had slept ten hours."

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I wondered why students in high school would feel such an enormous amount of pressure; I don't recall high school being that way for me.  Then I remembered that getting into University in the United States is a completely different ball game than it is here in Regina.  A young woman from Pittsburgh explained how Adderall helped her deal with the added pressure the economic crisis has placed on students:

        "Young adults today feel like they need straight-A's, a good internship, a jam-packed social life and more or
        we're failures. We're worried about our future . . . We know we're going into an abysmal job market and
        need any edge we can get, and no effort feels like its enough. You have to pick two: sleep, social life or
        grades.  Stimulants like Adderall give you a much needed boost when your in such a high-stress, exhausting
        situation."

Is this the type of message schools are sending to children?  The competitive nature of post-secondary schooling seems to have created an every-person-for-themselves mentality that has young adults grasping at whatever tools will give them the extra edge they need to get ahead.  Some of the students end up addicted to the pills, claiming that the effects of not taking them daily has left them unable to function.  One boy from New York City was fortunate to have kicked the habit after being accepted to college:

        "The last time I used it in high school was around the end of my first semester of senior year. I was admitted
        to college at that point and high school seemed less stressful to me, and thus the reliance on drugs for good
        grades dissipated."

Although standardized testing in Canada has not been awarded the same level of value as it has in the US, some provinces have begun taking more stock in their results than others.  The pressure to perform on these exams can increase levels of stress in both students and teachers.  However, stress can come from many areas of our lives.  It is important that educators equip students with healthy coping strategies to deal with the added stress that getting older seems to bring along with it, so that they don't begin misusing or abusing drugs to deal.

What are some ways that you deal with the stresses in your life?  Mine is making lists to keep organized and to help put things into perspective.  Post your advice below!

 





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