When university student Jen* faced a seven-hour shift at work after a night of socialising, she turned away from coffee to help her stay awake and picked up a little white pill.

The Charles Sturt University student took a Ritalin pill just before midnight and when she got home, she was able to study, tidy her room and watch a movie before starting work at 5am.

“I hate caffeine, so it was an alternative for me when I needed to feel awake for work,” she said, although she had never been prescribed the drug commonly used to treat behavioural disorders like attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD).

Jen said more people were turning to prescription medications as stimulants to balance study, work and social commitments.

She estimates about 40 per cent of the people who live on campus have experimented with drugs like Ritalin or Adderall to concentrate on completing assignments and studying for exams.

The drug habits of Australian students will be the focus of new research to determine whether prescription medications are being misused in a bid to enhance academic performance.

A survey, commissioned by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, will seek information from students across four Australian universities.

The findings, due to be released in 2016, will build on the first big study of prescription stimulant misuse at Australian universities, published last year, which found 8 per cent of undergraduate participants had used the drugs in a manner not specified in the approved packaging label.

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– Eliza Edwards and Andrew Purcell

Source: Busy students turning to prescription drugs