Stressed stu­dents play drug roulette

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS - NATASHA BITA

STRESSED stu­dents taking “smart drugs’’ to cope with school work are land­ing in hospi­tal with life-threat­en­ing side ef­fects.

High-stakes ex­ams, oner­ous as­sign­ments, and home­work of up to three hours a night are tempt­ing stu­dents to play “Rus­sian roulette’’ with pre­scrip­tion drugs bought on­line or from class­mates.

A Bris­bane car­di­ol­o­gist has treated a teenage girl for heart com­pli­ca­tions from Ri­talin tablets meant to treat at­ten­tion deficit hy­per­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der.

The se­nior school stu­dent had not been di­ag­nosed with ADHD but told the spe­cial­ist she popped the pills be­cause she had “too much home­work’’ and thought they would help her fo­cus.

Bris­bane doc­tor Richard Kidd, who chairs the Aus­tralian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion’s Coun­cil of Gen­eral Prac­tice, said doc­tors were aware that some teenagers were buy­ing Ri­talin from class­mates with ADHD.

“If Ri­talin and other medicines like that – the ‘smart drugs’ – are given with­out a pre­scrip­tion and peo­ple don’t know if they’ve got a health is­sue, they’re play­ing Rus­sian roulette,’’ he told The Sun­day Mail.

“They might ac­ci­den­tally kill them­selves.

“Mis­use of stim­u­lants of the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem, such as Ri­talin, have been as­so­ci­ated with sud­den death or other car­dio­vas­cu­lar ef­fects.’’

Car­diac So­ci­ety of Aus­tralia and New Zealand spokes­woman Jenny Deague warned that teenagers could end up in hospi­tal with heart com­pli­ca­tions.

“Chil­dren are risk­ing be­ing hos­pi­talised be­cause they’re taking pre­scrip­tion medicines that they think are com­pletely safe but have side ef­fects of high blood pressure and a high pulse rate,’’ she said.

“If your heart goes too fast for too long, the heart gets weak.

“It’s not that Ri­talin it­self is toxic to the heart, but if it makes the heart go faster, it can be a risk.’’

Pro­fes­sor Deague, who is a Heart Foun­da­tion board mem­ber, said some stu­dents do­ing Year 12 ex­ams were “un­der so much stress, they will pretty much take any­thing’’.

“The un­for­tu­nate thing is, it doesn’t help them – they’d be bet­ter off hav­ing a good night’s sleep be­fore an exam.’’

Queens­land’s top pub­lic school, Bris­bane State High, ex­pects its se­niors to spend up to three hours a night on home­work, while those at Bris­bane Girls Gram­mar spend an aver­age of three hours a week just on sci­ence home­work.

A Queens­land Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment spokes­woman said each school sets its own home­work sched­ule.

“Prin­ci­pals are to con­sult with the school com­mu­nity to con­firm that the amount of home­work al­lows suf­fi­cient time for fam­ily, recre­ation, com­mu­nity and cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties based on the needs and well­be­ing of their stu­dents,’’ she said.

Psy­chol­o­gist Michael Car­rGregg yes­ter­day said some teens were eas­ily buy­ing “smart drugs” on­line.

“You have no idea of the pu­rity or dosage of what you’re get­ting, and all the drugs have side ef­fects,’’ he said.

Dr Carr-Gregg said stress and school­work pres­sures were the two big­gest prob­lems fac­ing Aus­tralian teenagers.

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