On Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on administrators at the State University of New York and City University of New York systems, along with private colleges, to crack down on abuse of prescription attention deficit disorder pills like Adderall and Ritalin, which some students use as "study drugs."
Schumer told WCBS, "There are better ways to pull an all-nighter and stay up. There's coffee, there's things like NoDoz," referring to the brand of caffeine pills.
Schumer proposed some reforms for colleges, Pix 11 reports, including setting a limit on how many pills students can be prescribed at one time, requiring a medical history of ADD or ADHD to obtain the drugs, and educating students about the potential dangers of abuse. Schumer said an estimated one-sixth to one-third of students have taken them, which conservatively would mean around 64,000 students popped Adderall or a drug like it in New York City alone.
"If you're using Adderall for any reason other than for attention deficit disorder, you're basically using speed," Dr. Samuel Altstein of Beth Israel Medical Group told NY1.
People who have followed this issue, or have spent much time on a college campus in recent years, can attest that taking study drugs is not uncommon. A 2009 study from University of Rhode Island researchers found 60 percent of students knew someone who took study drugs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service estimated in 2011 that 5 percent of people between ages 18 and 25 had taken psychotherapeutic drugs like Adderall or Ritalin without a prescription.
For now, the senator is not proposing actual legislation, but is merely pressuring colleges in his home state to adopt such policies, which have had success on campuses elsewhere.
California State University-Fresno requires students who want to use such drugs to undergo an ADD or ADHD evaluation, which the Daily Beast notes can take several weeks to complete, and then they must sign a contract agreeing to regular meetings with a mental health professional and not to share pills.
"We've definitely seen a difference," Catherine Felix, CSU-Fresno student health director, told the Daily Beast. "Only the serious ones come here."
But some local critics, like John Surico at the Village Voice, are skeptical. "When it comes to obtaining drugs like Adderall and Ritalin," Surico writes, "where there's a will, there's a way -- one person's prescription can equal 10 others' use." Madeleine Davies at Jezebel said, "Telling students that they should rely on caffeine and other over the counter stimulants hardly seems like the answer," adding that Schumer ought to focus on "why they're pulling all-nighters in the first place."