More US students depend on drugs

October 25, 2002

An increasing number of US students arrive at universities on stimulants, antidepressants and other psychoactive medications, according to campus mental-health providers.

Use of these drugs among students has risen from 5 per cent to 40 per cent in the past few years. A national survey to determine how many students are on psychoactive medications is under way and is due to report next year.

A University of Pittsburgh study has found that 85 per cent of university counselling-centre directors have seen an increase in the number of students using psychoactive medication.

The Association of University and College Counselling Center Directors reports that nearly two-thirds of students using mental-health services at large colleges are using psychoactive medications.

Mental-health providers from nine universities, including Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth, met last month to discuss the situation. Several institutions are now requiring mandatory intake interviews for students who arrive on psychoactive medications.

Some college counsellors think doctors are too quick to prescribe drugs, which blunt the emotional highs and lows of adolescence with the effect that students do not learn how to cope on their own. A few of the counsellors now ban drug company salesmen, who have started visiting university health centres en masse.

Counsellors said that students were no longer reluctant to use mental-health services. In fact, students had a broad knowledge of things such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and often diagnose themselves.

Universities are also cracking down on another drug of choice: tobacco. A growing number of universities and colleges have this year started banning smoking.

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