With recreational prescription drug use increasing in recent years, Health and Counseling Services has streamlined diagnosis and prescription processes to ensure medicine is only given to, and used by, those who need it.
Recent policy changes ensure that students are prescribed medication only after thorough evaluation. This level of scrutiny is particularly necessary in light of the rise in recreational use of stimulants commonly prescribed for the treatment of ADD and ADHD. According to the Orient’s February 2013 drug use survey, 1.8% of students reported using study drugs without a prescription weekly or more, while 3.3% reported using them every month or two.
The College’s policy on prescribing medicine varies by drug. Painkillers, for example, are typically prescribed only for short periods. Students requiring long-term prescriptions for chronic pain would be referred to a specialist off-campus.
The medications that Health Services prescribes on a daily basis are considered low-risk and include antibiotics and antivirals during flu season. If a student feels they are in need of stimulant medication, they start the process with Counseling Services.
Director of Health Services Sandra Hayes said that Health Services rarely prescribes stimulant medication; they will only do so for students who have been tested, had a prescription for the medication before, and are now taking a maintenance level of the medication.
“In the past we would prescribe [ADD medicine], and the psychiatrists in Counseling would also prescribe it, so it could be confusing. Now that we’ve [streamlined the process], counseling does the bulk of the medication prescription,” said Hayes.
“Students can be fooled or blinded by the fact that they feel more focused…around exam time,” said Hayes. But taking these drugs without a prescription “can really cause severe heart palpitations, dizziness—a whole host of issues.”
According to Hayes, some students have had to go to the emergency room following the use of stimulants not prescribed to them. Stimulant medications present a complex problem and the policy regarding these medications has changed the most in recent years.
“Counseling Service[s] prescribes medication for ADHD after a student has completed an assessment with a clinician, a neuropsychological evaluation, and an appointment with a psychiatrist,” said Director of Counseling Services Bernie Hershberger in an email to the Orient.
This neuropsychological examination typically lasts four to six hours and consists of tests selected by the neuropsychologist after the initial assessment.
“At the conclusion of the testing we have a much clearer idea if a student is struggling with a learning disability, ADHD, and/or a level of anxiety or depression that might be interfering with their academic performance,” wrote Hershberger.
One senior male, who wished to remain anonymous due to the medical nature of the situation, was prescribed Adderall about a year ago.
He did not take a neuropsychological examination, because he received his prescription before the new requirements were implemented.
“People have the impression that [getting Adderall] is really easy,” the student said. “But I don’t think that making it hard is a good thing if people know what they need.”
After receiving prescriptions, students are asked to return for a follow-up appointment in order to ensure that the medication is working effectively. Students are also given their psychiatrist’s phone number in case of any adverse reaction. According to Hershberger, this level of care is uncommonly high.