Stressed students risk lives with pills
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 teenage girl was treated 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.
Richard Kidd, chair of 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 said. “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.’’