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CNN Today

College Students Turning to Ritalin

Aired January 8, 2001 - 4:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Pulling the all-nighter is a time-honored tradition and part of college life. But now many students are turning to a controversial drug to give them the buzz they say they need to get through long hours of studying, not to mention partying.

CNN medical correspondent Linda Ciampa with the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LINDA CIAMPA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Marly Malm began college, she struggled to pass her courses. But when a classmate gave her a sample of the drug Ritalin, things changed.

MARLY MALM, STUDENT: I had never felt like that kind of control over myself before, like being able to just relax and do something that needed to be done.

CIAMPA: Malm was later diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, a condition commonly treated with Ritalin. But across college campuses, some students are taking Ritalin without a prescription, illegally, and they're using it to fuel everything from all-night study sessions to all-night parties.

Last summer, a survey at the University of Wisconsin found that 20 percent of college students had taken Ritalin without a prescription.

DR. ERIC HEILIGENSTEIN, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN: People find the drug enticing because they can get their academic work done quicker or do more in a shorter period of time. So for students who have put off work or are not very strong academically, we find some are using it to kind of counteract or remedy their problems.

CIAMPA: Ritalin is now on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's list of the top most stolen drugs, and doctors warn Ritalin is a powerful, potentially dangerous drug, especially if it's crushed up and inhaled.

DR. LAWRENCE DILLER, AUTHOR, "RUNNING ON RITALIN": What that means is, in rare situations -- in rare situations -- the person is placed at risk, primarily for a cardiac arrhythmia. And that means irregular beating of the heart, which can cause sudden death, and it does. CIAMPA: And it's not only college kids who are misusing Ritalin. New reports suggest there is a growing trend of Ritalin abuse among adults, using the drug to get more done at work and keep up with a fast-paced lifestyle.

Malm, however, gives much of the credit for her academic success to Ritalin. She'll graduate next spring with a B average. She says although the way she first got the drug was wrong, the eventual diagnosis of ADHD and treatment has made a world of difference.

Linda Ciampa, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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