Brittany Ballantyne

Equinox Staff


Medications are created to heal, but when individuals take medications not prescribed to them, the word “heal” may turn into hazard.

Keene State College participates in an American College Health Association health assessment online every few years. This survey asks students to anonymously answer questions on how they perceive the rest of the student body and the student body’s use of drugs.

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Deb Coltey, nurse practitioner and clinical supervisor at the Center for Health and Wellness, explained that KSC added its own questions to this survey in 2009 in regards to prescription drugs. When KSC students answered, the results read that 2.4 percent of students out of 1,000 who answered had been tested for ADHD and had been treated with medications. A total of 1.2 percent were treated but not diagnosed. Students treated for anxiety was 6 percent, again out of 1,000 who answered.

Coltey pointed out that there has been an increase in the use of these medications because there has been an increase of diagnosis of mental disorders. She said this is a good thing and expressed that, “I don’t think there’s been increased incidents of mental disorders, I just think it’s been hidden.”

Now people are coming forward and getting tested. Coltey explained that New Hampshire has one of the highest rates of diagnosis of ADHD. This could be because there is more access to health care.

“There’s a lot of academic pressure in this area of the country for people to do well so that’s another idea,” Coltey said.

Susanna Woods of the Counseling Center addressed what she thought of students who may be abusing these drugs.

Woods said, “I think that’s a potential anywhere. On campus I think there’s some medications that have the potential to be abused more than others, for example the stimulants. Those are the meds we use for attention deficit disorder, some anxiety medications have the potential to be abused as well. That’s in pretty much any setting but in college campuses you wanna be aware of that.”

Brenda Esperanza, also of the Counseling Center, said, “There definitely are some students that take medication that belongs to their friends. I’ve had a bunch of students come up and be like, ‘I think I have ADHD’ and I’ll be like, ‘Why do you think that?’ and they’ll say, ‘Well, I took my friends medication and it really helped’ so we know that people are sharing or giving, especially for exams or papers, that’s what I hear mostly.”

Sophomore Madison Macaruso takes prescribed medication for her ADHD. “Honestly I think that because Adderall is a controlled substance, people shouldn’t take them if they’re not prescribed because they really don’t understand that the people who actually do need them, need them,” she said.

Macaruso later said, “I see how it benefits, the fact that you can do work but if you don’t have the condition to begin with you shouldn’t have to take them at all. You should want to do your homework.”

Cotely explained that short-term anxiety medications “do have an abuse potential and are abused and misused by people who are prescribed them and by people who are not, they’re very effective with helping at anxiety.”

She also clarified that Adderall is a stimulant for ADHD which can work in a short-term or an over time method. For students with ADHD, Coltey said, “People used to say these stimulants work differently for you, your brain’s different but that’s not true. We know that they work for everybody. They help people concentrate on tasks that they might not otherwise be able to attend to and so probably any of us, and I don’t want to promote Adderall use, but probably anyone can take an Adderall and concentrate better on a test for that one time. But then, you have someone who has ADHD and who needs that for overall organization of their lives.”

“Really, I don’t think the medicines fix anything. The medicine is just set up so hopefully it helps you to continue on your path,” Coltey said.

Woods said “It’s not gonna fix everything. It’s not going to like, make you get an A or make your attention in every area of your life wonderful and the same goes for any medication.”

“There are students who very clearly would benefit on medication ‘cause they’ve tried to use these coping skills to manage anxiety and it’s just not working. A lot of students are uncomfortable taking medication so they’re struggling and trying to do everything they can and manage it and it’s just not helpful. And then there’s some students that I imagine see all the commercials on TV of, ‘Oh, you have anxiety? Take this.’ So there’s some students who really could manage their anxiety productively and effectively using coping skills that you can learn, but sometimes people want a quick fix,” Esperanza said.

Cotley pointed out that if these prescribed drugs are abused and mixed with other drugs or alcohol, it can become very dangerous. She also said that those who abuse them “can become more tolerant of them and need higher doses.”

Esperanza spoke of the dangers of addiction and said, “If you mentally create a dependency, you know, I imagine that can kind of really go into a whole area of addiction mentally, not physically.”

There are multiple other ways to deal with stress, anxiety, and concentration. Coltey listed things like exercise, dieting, sleeping, counseling, and taking fish oils.

“A lot of times students take on so much and don’t know when to say no, and then they’re overextended,” Esperanza said.

Esperanza also said, “If you have this huge steak and you try to eat the steak without cutting it, you’re gonna choke. But if you can break it up into small pieces, you’re able to manage it and I see that with stress. You can break things down into smaller pieces instead of taking everything all at once.”

Coltey said, “These services are here in ways that will probably never be so close to people again once they leave college,” in regards to health services and counseling.

“I think people for the most part do a great job dealing with these issues that they deal with, and it’s hard and although I think these medicines are misused and abused sometimes, I think they get a bum wrap and they help a lot of people,” Coltey said.


Brittany Ballantyne can be contacted at




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