Student stimulant drug use – on the rise?

Written by: Sophie Herbut/Staff Writer

Alexander Orta developed a routine when he graduated from high school, preparing himself for college. One mistake, however, almost dissolved all of his attempts to get an education.

“I was finally of age of a college student [so I wanted] to explore the stereotype of college students,” Orta said. He found one way to do this was to recreationally use marijuana.

There has been an increase in the use of illegal drugs, with an estimated 80.6 percent using marijuana in 2013 according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

The senior English major said his routine was simple: work, school and once a week, he would hang out with friends and smoke marijuana.

An estimated 5.9 percent of college students are reported to use marijuana daily, according to a 2014 study by the University of Michigan.

After the consistence of his schedule, his friends decided to relocate to a hidden location with unmaintained, tall grass. After a previous warning from a man who lived close, they showed up to the same location and found a police officer stationed and ready for suspicious activity.

“As soon as we turned our headlights off, a car turns theirs on and drives up to us,” Orta said. He said the officer immediately asked for the drugs and they complied.

“[He asked us] if we go to school and I think that’s when he pitied us.” Orta said. “A lot of cops have pity of college students.”

David Navas, an officer within FIUPD’s Investigations and Compliance Division, said he understands the power the officer has on the future of a student that has been caught in possession of illegal drugs.

“It’s a very difficult moment in an officer’s life when that person’s future is in [his or her] hands,” Navas said. “And it’s that one decision that officer makes that can pretty much make it or break it for that person’s future, for a simple mistake.”

Orta was charged with a misdemeanor and was given a promise to appear in court.

During the next few months, Orta said he was living in fear of telling his parents and thought he would be able to keep it from them. In that time, he had to fill out his FAFSA, and it asked if he was ever convicted for drug-related crime.

“I didn’t know what to put,” said Orta. “That was my biggest fear. The fear that college would be taken away from me.”

Navas said he thinks it’s a shame that students put themselves in these situations.

“It’s a difficult decision when you have these students that could be honor students, that could be in the school of medicine, that could be a law student that have everything going for them, and they don’t realize the potential consequences of doing this,” he said.

Nicole Wallace, a junior environmental science major, has seen people in the University use drugs.

“There were people smoking weed in the common area and walking around with, like, blunts in their hands in front of the dorms,” said Wallace.

Navas said that as university police officers, they have several options for students who are discovered to be in possession of illegal drugs or contraband.

The officer has the alternative to send the student to Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution, give them a “promise to appear,” or an option to go home and set a court date instead of arrest. They are also exploring civil citations as an option to non-students.

The use of “study drugs,” such as Adderall, Vyvanse or Ritalin, are also at staggering heights — about 30 percent, according to a 2006 study by the University of Kentucky.

The most common reason is to focus while studying, especially during the time of midterm and final exams.

Paola Silva said she tried Adderall because of the lack of time she had to do homework while handling a full-time job.

“I wish it didn’t come down to trying Adderall but it really did help more than I had expected it to,” the junior education major said. “When I would sit down to study I was so tired, and it was so easy to get distracted.”

She said she was able to sit down and get everything done in about three hours.

The use of Adderall or other prescription ADHD medications do not begin at the college level.

Daniel Castellanos, chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral health, said the use of these drugs start as early as middle school.

Adderall is the fifth-used drug in eighth grade students and the second most used among twelfth grade students, according to the study by the University of Michigan.

The study also showed the common source for these drugs are from a friend or relative.

“Some people call it a misuse so they don’t call it an addiction,” Castellanos said.

Castellanos also said Adderall is a schedule-2 drug, meaning it’s highly monitored because of its potential for abuse.

“I didn’t take it all at once. With the instant release 30 mg capsules, I only took half of the dose, which still was able to wake me up and do the trick,” she said. She also applied tricks a friend gave her for managing the side effects.

Castellanos mentioned the steps to prescribing a drug like the physical and tests to make sure a person is healthy to take the drug.

“When it’s not supervised and monitored, you have all these potential risks,” Castellanos said. He also cited a study that showed that dosage didn’t appear to change the chance of risks.

Navas mentioned these drugs are harder to find because of their casual, prescribed use, but they’re still prominent.

“It’s definitely a major challenge for us to find these drugs that are being used illegally. Because unlike marijuana you can smell it, you can see it, you can test for it [more easily],” he said.

He said a usual investigation starts from a simple encounter, like a traffic violation, and the officer could see a pill container, and he’ll start questioning.

“It’s a shame to even hear that students are doing this to take a test,” he said.

Navas also mentioned that the use of these drugs while putting others in danger will not be tolerated.

“Safety for everyone else is paramount,” he said.

Image courtesy of Creative Commons

About the Author

Camila Fernandez
A FIU School of Journalism and Mass Communications Student - Began working with Student Media in 2013.

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