By Mai Reyes
It’s finals week, and the end of the semester is upon us. Students aim to end the academic year on a high note, both figuratively and literally.
Many John Jay students—as well as many college students—who wish to remain on track with the stack of final exams, papers, presentations, and the other requirements at the end of the semester do just that. To perform better in spite of the stress and anxiety, their remedies consist of a cup of Starbucks, a Red Bull, a pop of Adderall, or worse, a combination of all.
Drug and substance abuse remains to be a sensitive topic among many, both young and old. For some college students, it’s an under-the-table kind of thing that they may or may not be so loud about.
Three friends, Nedelin, Margaret, and Michelle were hanging out on the 6th floor lounge area during community hour. With a can of Coke in her hand, Margaret reflected on her past experiences with coping mechanisms during times like midterm season or finals week.
“From my past experiences on taking a substance to help me study, my academic results ended up as C’s,” Margaret, a Forensic Psychology major at John Jay, said. She now only drinks coffee and soda for taste and prefers not to take anything to help her study.
Nedelin, also a Forensic Psychology major, shared that she knows a friend who must take Adderall in order to attend school and focus on her studies. “She will not be able to function without it. She must be put in a separate room to take her exams because she easily gets distracted.”
Nedelin’s personal experience included being tipsy on alcohol. “I had plenty of energy to study and thought I was able to retain all information from the previous night of studying. The next day, I forgot and couldn’t remember anything when the alcohol wore off,” she said. “I would never do it again. Nothing stuck to memory after spending a whole night studying.”
Michelle, a Criminal Justice major, said, “I am in support of students taking supplements or substances to help them study, like energy drinks, but not drugs of any kind. I prefer to drink Monster, Red Bull, or coffee or any combination of them because they help my energy stay even throughout the day in order to study and have the energy to commute back and forth from New Jersey to John Jay.”
Nedelin, Margaret, and Michelle, as it turns out, share the same story with a lot more John Jay students.
A recent John Jay student survey found that 93 percent of students rely on some type of a substance or supplement as a study aid in order to meet academic demands. The high number of John Jay students who rely on these substances are at a high risk of developing an addiction and sporting a toe tag at the morgue.
Out of the 100 students surveyed, 26 percent said they use energy drinks to help them stay up while they study. 17 percent use alcohol to help them cope with stress, and 15 percent said they use other substances such as over-the-counter drugs like Stay Awake while studying. Some of the most popular supplements are Stay Awake and NoDoz. The survey also showed that 13 percent of students take prescription drugs like Adderall, Modafinil, and Ambien to help them focus and regulate sleep.
“As tasty and as helpful as caffeinated substances are, students don’t havemuch of a choice in avoiding them,” said Dominika Szybisty, a senior at John Jay. “The accessibility has both its draws and drawbacks.”
In the survey, 11 percent of students said they have used Caffeine Powder, an overlooked deadly substance. A spoonful of caffeine powder is equivalent to drinking 70 Red Bulls in one sitting.
According to experts, one should avoid having more than 600 milligrams of caffeine in one day. To put that into perspective, one grande Starbucks coffee (16 ounces) has about 330 milligrams of caffeine. A 12-ounce Diet Coke has 45 milligrams.
Because caffeine is a drug, its effects can vary from person to person depending on weight, medications, and overall health, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“Students who juggle multiple roles can be easily drawn to substances to help them cope with stressors on a daily basis. Economic hardships, working many hours, attending to family, as well as the demands for time to study can easily lead to dependency,” said Lin Anderson, an extern at the Department of Counseling on campus.
Marijuana was preferred by 10 percent of the students to help them relax and cope with stress during exams and finals, but one percent of the students used cocaine or heroin. Several said they use a combination of these substances when the time to focus for final exams comes.
These substances alone can cause harm, and taking a combination of these can be deadly. Severe caffeine overdose can cause fast and erratic heartbeat, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, and disorientation.
Be aware of your habits and your choices when reaching for an easy A.