COLLEGE SURVEY SAYS 34 PERCENT OF UNDERGRADS HAVE ILLEGALLY TAKEN DRUGS TO BOOST THEIR BRAIN POWER -- "60 MINUTES" SUNDAY
Among Upper Classes, 50-60 Percent Using ADD/ADHD Drugs Ritalin, Adderall
If a college campus survey holds true for the entire nation, most of this year's graduating seniors at American colleges have illegally used prescription drugs to boost their brain power. Katie Couric reports on the increasing non-prescription use of "smart drugs" meant to help those with attention deficit disorders in a segment to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, April 25 (7:00-8:00PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Alan DeSantis, professor of Communications at the University of Kentucky, decided to study the use of drugs like Ritalin and Adderall because he was surprised to hear so many of his students talking about taking them. He found that among nearly 2,000 U. of K. undergrads surveyed, 34 percent said they had taken them without a prescription and that the percentage rose as students got closer to graduation. "If you were to ask what percentage of juniors and seniors are using ADHD stimulants, the number is well above 50, pushing 60 percent," he tells Couric. "Add in juniors and seniors who are in fraternities and sororities, the number is up [to] 80 percent," says DeSantis.
DeSantis says nearly all the respondents said the drugs improved their scores by one or two letter grades.
According to DeSantis, 4 percent of undergrads at the University of Kentucky have legal prescriptions for ADHD stimulants and those students often have leftover pills they give or sell to their fellow students, like Lauren, a junior at the University. She explains the difference such drugs make for her. "I've taken them to study for tests and write papers....If I'm not on Adderall, I'll read something and I'm not really interested at all," Lauren says. "But then you take an Adderall and you...all of the sudden are just totally consumed in what you are doing," she tells Couric. Watch an excerpt.
Scott, another U. of K. student who says he does not take these drugs, understands why others do. "Everybody's trying to get an edge...if you can take a pill that will help you study all night to get that grade you need...a lot of people don't see why they wouldn't do it," he says.
Scientists, like Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse,
point out that stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin can cause heart trouble and raise blood pressure. She says the long-term effects of people without attention deficit disorder using such drugs are not known and she has another concern. "The reality is there are side effects of these drugs," says Volkow. "One of them is addiction, but another one can be psychosis, so it's not worth the risk."
U. of K. student Catherine, who says she does not use smart drugs, raises another question. "I feel that it's an unfair advantage," she tells Couric. "If the person next to me...can stay up the entire night and know the material and come in and make a better grade than me."