Witsies use stimulant to help cope with test week and stress levels.

SOME students are using a prescription stimulant as a “study drug” to enhance and increase their concentration levels while preparing for tests, mid-year and year-end exams.

Mostly known by its trade name Ritalin, the drug is a central nervous system stimulant that is used to treat attention deficit disorders in children and adults.

It is a “schedule 6 item”, said Nazrana Timol, a pharmacist at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital. This means the drug requires a new prescription every month.

Students feeling the pressure of the upcoming test week, however, do not have an attention deficit disorder but feel that Ritalin helps them concentrate while studying. One student *Rick said, “I’ll start studying and then while I’m studying I’ll take Ritalin and then it just helps me concentrate more especially for pulling all-nighters.”

Two other students *Aaron and *Mike both said they use the drug to increase their focus while studying and their concentration lasts for about three to four
hours. Students acquire the drug from other students, who either have prescriptions for the drug or have acquired the drug through other means.

*Mike said that he gets his Ritalin from another student he knows but when he was buying and selling the tablet, he would buy a box for R13 and sell one tablet for R40. He said, “People are desperate to get those results.”

*Aaron said he has noticed an improvement in his academic results. “So from a 30 it would bring me to a 50,” said Aaron.

Mike and Rick, however, said it played a bigger role in their concentration levels.

Students take the tablet approximately two to three weeks before test week or exams. This varies from student to student and similarly the side-effects of the drug vary from student to student. Students experienced “emotional spikes”, suppressed appetite and they “crash” but they get their desired results. Timol also said, “Due to the stimulatory effects on the CNS, patients on long-term therapy show signs of dependence and there is possibility of misuse.”

*Names have been changed


Wits Vuvuzela, September 2012: Pills for pressure