Ritalin Epidemic Sweeps College. Can Neurofeedback be an alternative?
Ritalin and Adderall are serious prescription drugs which help ADHD and ADD patients find the focus they need to lead a functional life. These very drugs, either prescribed by an easy doctor, or bought as a street drug, are massively abused by students from high school to Ivy League campuses. These drugs seriously “unlevel” the playing field in academic performance. And the question is not just about fairness, but foremost about health.
When a handful students use these mental performance enhancing drugs, they put pressure on peers to start using them too. A B-grade is all relative; you’ll get that score when some are better and some are worse performers than you are. But what about when some of these better performers do so because they are on drugs?
Mental Performance Enhancing Drugs
Ritalin (generic Methylphenidate) and Adderall also let good students cut corners. Now that we frown upon Lance Armstrong’s cheating his way to the Tour de France wins with performance enhancing drugs, should we also pay attention to the thousands of kids, teenagers and young adults “enhancing” their way through college?I’m currently about to graduate from college and from this position I have a close look on the epidemic of Ritalin abuse on college campuses. Students are abusing drugs like Ritalin and Adderall everywhere like candy. While these drugs can help you get some serious work done, there are bad side effects.
Ritalin Side Effects
The obvious side effects that I have observed from Ritalin are extreme anxiety, dizziness, headaches, and excessive sweating. However these effects are not nearly as detrimental as the unhealthy patterns these drugs develop in the brain. College student’s brains are extremely moldable, not fully developed yet and are still actively creating connections that are important later on in life. When we learn we create new pathways of electrons from one part of the brain to another. The more often we “travel” or use these pathways the more engrained the pattern becomes. With drugs, such as Ritalin, we develop these pathways that are only useful while on the drug and thus become useless off of the drug. This creates false patterns in the brain that are impossible to change later on.
Ritalin-Pot Cycle Goes Up and Down
Using stimulants like Ritalin may also lead to other drugs that one needs to come down. Pot is commonly used to come down from Ritalin and it may lead to a very stressful, unhealthy cycle in which Ritalin is taken to be productive, followed by a blow out smoke of pot to settle down, followed by a groggy feeling the next morning, and then using Ritalin again to boost oneself back up to functional levels. This unhealthy up and down pattern becomes a dangerous trap when friends and fellow students do the exact same thing.
During this artificially stimulating cycle, the brain is learning to rely on a substance to concentrate and then another substance to relax. This is essentially forcing the brain to perform rather than allowing it to work naturally.
Do It Naturally with Neurofeedback
There are far better – less artificial – alternatives to focus and train your mind to concentrate when needed. I discovered how to use Neurofeedback to train my brain, and to focus in a more skilled and natural way.
Neurofeedback is an amazing technology that essentially reorganizes and retrains your brain patterns. Electrical sensors are placed on your scalp and earlobes that pick up brainwaves, which are then displayed on a computer monitor, thus allowing you to shift and control them as you look at their activity. This real time feedback entrains the brain to relax and focus by rewarding it for activating certain desirable brainwave frequencies.
I can honestly say that it’s been a bit of work to get my brain working more efficiently, without depending on the stimulant/pot cycle. However it been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Recognizing that it is not as easy as popping a pill, you should give Neurofeedback a shot, if you’re ready to trade the Ritalin illusion for discovering the real self.
Dane Iliff is currently a senior at the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in business finance.