Stressed students play drug roulette
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.