Lebanese students misuse drugs to gain concentration boost

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The use of the drug Ritalin, a brain stimulant usually prescribed for attention deficit disorders, has been landing in the hands of many young adults in Lebanon due to its addictive stimulating effects.

Ritalin is a pill used to affect the nervous system when taken in order to help increase attention and lessen restlessness in those who suffer from ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

It comes in a small white pill prescribed by psychiatrists who perform multiple tests in order to diagnose the patient.

At high schools and universities across Lebanon, the abuse of Ritalin has increased over the years due to pressure over grades and competition within classes, the Daily Star reported on Thursday.

Omar, a banking and finance graduate from LAU, admits to using Ritalin despite his non-existing issue with attention deficit. “It really helped me study,” Omar told The Daily Star. “I could sit for hours and study without losing patience. The medicine is like a miracle worker.”

Despite the need for a prescription to obtain the drug, students have been able to receive these pills from dealers and friends who have been diagnosed with ADHD.

The lenient ministry restriction has enabled those with ADD/ADHD to sell the drug for a price of $10 per a pill of Ritalin, and $30 per a pill of Concert, a rare pill also used for ADD/ADHD.

As a student who was diagnosed with ADD at the age of 11, Ryan, an American University of Beirut business student, has admitted to providing Concerta, another stimulant pill, to others.

“I sell to my friends and anyone who wants them,” Ryan explained. “It is an easy way to make money, and it helps students study and [get] good marks during exams.”

“ADD and ADHD can be diagnosed in the early stages of childhood,” explained Samira Dabbous, a Lebanese American University psychology professor.

“When a student is unable to focus on a task, and is easily distracted, he or she tends to have ADD or ADHD.”

Such pills have been condemned for the severe side effects. These side effects include fast and/ or uneven heartbeat, high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, sweating, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.

As a result of these well-publicized side effects, many who have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD have refused to seek any professional help. Hamzeh, a Jordanian business student at LAU is one of them.

“I refuse to take medicine even from friends,” he explained. “I know myself, and if I try it I will get addicted. ... Also my father disapproves of the medicine.”