Finals Season a Safety Test

By , June 9, 2011 / No Comments

As students cram their studies into the days leading up to final exams, some make dangerous choices in order to stay awake and focus. According to the article below, Adderall and Ritalin are two drugs that students abuse by taking high dosages for reasons they are not prescribed for, like studying. These prescription drugs are not the answer and have many side effects including anxiety, high blood pressure and the risk of death by overdose. The article lists tips for exam preparation that include staying hydrated, eating a protein-rich breakfast and sipping small amounts of coffee, tea or caffeinated drinks over a long period of time to stay awake - rather than chugging them all at once. GreenCoffex® capsules deliver the same benefits as drinking caffeinated beverages over an extended timeframe. GreenCoffex® increases energy by using caffeine from all-natural Colombian green coffee bean extract and uses a patented time release technology to dispense the caffeine to your body evenly, over an eight hour period.


I just hung up after talking with my daughter, and I could hear the stress in her voice. She has the typical sore throat coming on, got very little sleep, and her anxiety is building -- alas, it's college finals time. I am preparing the "get pumped up for finals care package" to send out and trying to come up with the usual mom's words of wisdom. I feel her pain. I can remember popping NoDoz and pulling an all-nighter while studying for my neuroanatomy exam.

NoDoz still exists, but it isn't the drug of choice. According to an article in BU Today, Boston University's magazine (and my alma mater), a 2003 study published in the medical journal Addiction found that "up to 25 percent of college students use Adderall illegally to improve cognitive performance, despite the medical risk of increased likelihood of anxiety, high blood pressure and even sexual impotence." Ritalin and Adderall have become the drugs of choice because students believe that they increase alertness, attention and energy, and greatly enhance their ability to concentrate without side effects. These are the drugs that are routinely prescribed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The reality is that these test helpers are amphetamines and controlled substances. These drugs increase the brain's release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and attention. According to Douglas Katz, a BU School of Medicine neurology professor, "by improving the activity of these neurochemicals, people with ADHD are able to focus and sustain functions to complete a task. If they are hyperactive, the drug seems to settle them down so they can focus. They become dangerous when used for reasons they are not prescribed for, such as studying. This is because students tend to use them at higher than recommended doses and most likely are not aware of potential side effects."

Adderall suppresses appetite and may keep students awake even when their bodies need sleep. It increases blood pressure, blood glucose and heart rate, constricts blood vessels, and with continued use may increase the risk of paranoia, seizure or heart attack. I know this to be true. A fellow student and friend of my daughter died last year after taking Adderall as he began a Ph.D. program.

This is the time of year when we need to talk to our students and provide support and understanding of the stress they are experiencing. My daughter just texted me a picture of the most inflamed tonsil I have ever seen. If I could drive her to the health services office right now I would, but since she is in Baltimore she assured me she will get herself there tomorrow as it opens. The best advice you can give your kids is to keep in overall good health and exercise regularly to keep their minds alert and reduce fatigue. Mom's RX for this week comes from "Go Ask Alice," the health services experts at Columbia University:

Create a test preparation schedule -- don't cram a few days before.
Stay hydrated during the days leading up to the test.
Eat a protein-rich breakfast on test day (eggs, grains, non-fat dairy, seeds and nuts).
Avoid carbohydrates, as they may increase feelings of tiredness.
If you must pull an all-nighter, sip small amounts of coffee, tea or caffeinated drinks over longer periods, rather than chugging them all at once.

This column should not be substituted for medical advice. Contact Lynda Shrager at

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