Caolan O'Donnell with Taoiseach Enda Kenny Picture: Sean Curtin
THERE has been an increase in college students consuming drugs to stay awake or improve studying, as exam pressures mount this summer, the Limerick Leader has learned.
The issue was addressed at a recent committee meeting of the Mid-West Regional Drug and Alcohol Forum, which was attended by members of University of Limerick Students’ Union.
It is understood that a large number of third level students are primarily sourcing prescription drugs online, or different versions of stimulants during examination periods.
Some drugs in high demand include Adderall, Ritalin, and Modafinil, which are each used to induce wakefulness, particularly for ADHD or narcolepsy.
ULSU welfare officer Caolan O’Donnell, who is a recent graduate, is spearheading research into the issue of study drugs for future campaign awareness, said that the problem became “more prominent” in recent years.
“I didn’t even know it existed until then. We then started seeing it more in the later years of college. And that is where the idea came from. From then, we decided we needed to do a bit of research into it,” he said.
As part of ULSU’s research, they have contacted the University of Texas, which recently carried out a successful anti-study drug awareness and information campaign.
He added: “Often, they just became available at this time of year, usually in study week or the week leading up to it. You wouldn’t hear about it at all, earlier in the semester. It always comes up near the end of the semester, where people are under stress, panicking trying to get essays done. So, it is always the last couple of weeks in college.”
Cllr Daniel Butler, who is a drug education worker with the Forum, said that the use of study drugs has seen “particular rise” in Limerick.
“This is not uncommon. We have had a number of reports of the use of study drugs at third level institutions. A lot of them seem to be purchased and sourced online. It seems to be getting bigger and bigger each year.”
He added that, generally, the drugs being used are prescription only.
“They are not going into the doctor and asking: ‘Can I have some pills so I can study better.’ They either purchasing them online or getting versions of these type of drugs.”
Commenting on side-effects of the drug’s misuse, Cllr Butler said: “Obviously, they are a type of stimulant. It is probably going to affect people’s sleeping patterns in the immediate term. And when you are studying, if you are looking effects, rest is a key part of any study practice. So, if you are taking the study drugs to keep yourself awake, when you’re looking to go to sleep, you are probably going to struggle to go to sleep.”
Cllr Butler added: “Often, there are people who can go a few days without sleeping, and that can lead to things like paranoia, hallucinations, and other things. And also there is damage to your liver, if you are mixing it with things like alcohol and other stimulants.”
He said that the Students’ Union at UL are “very active” on the problem.
“They are approaching things in a very responsible manner. As a drug education worker and as a member of the education sub-group committee, we would support them in any way we can.”
The Castletroy ULSU officer said that they will aim to set up focus groups to hear from those affected by the problem.
“We need to hear from the students, more than anything, because we need to see that we are addressing this in a proper way,” he said.
He added that the problem is a “very taboo” topic.