Study finds SSRI drugs not worth the risk

Lindsey Chandler

Turns out, drugs like Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft are changing the chemistry of your brain, and are doing so very quickly.

In a recent limited study reviewed by Tech Times, researchers found healthy brain exposure to antidepressant selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, produced changes that encompassed the whole brain after only three hours.

Most people that are prescribed SSRI treatments usually do not report major mood changes for at least two weeks, indicating a precursor to long-term alteration. Researchers hope to eventually expand to all medications and non-pharmacological interventions, but the implications of this study are already worth noting.

If changes in neural architecture are present after only a few hours in one chemical-altering drug, can we expand the view to other chemical-altering drugs, as well? The first that comes to mind is the all-too-familiar Adderall.

Adderall is used primarily in the treatment of narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. College students are notorious for Adderall usage, even if these diagnoses are not present. Other prescription ADHD medications include Vyvanse and Ritalin.

ADHD medications alter the brain by increasing the amount of neurotransmitters like dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Changing the chemical structure invites the brain to alter its own chemical construction, becoming dependent on the increased neurotransmitters. ADHD medications are highly addictive and, for the right populations, should be taken in small, controlled doses.

Don’t believe that? ADHD medications are classified as Schedule II drugs by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Schedule II drugs are highly susceptible for abuse and dependence. This Schedule II classification is also given to drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine and oxycodone.

In a 2012 study produced by the Journal of American College Health, it was estimated that 31 percent of college students use ADHD medications non-medically. Most students might claim they use these drugs to concentrate, and while hyper-focusing is indeed a result of stimulant usage, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s illegal drug abuse.

Avoiding illegal misuse is simple, but is it okay? It is easy to fake self-reports for ADHD evaluation, just as it is to get medications from a friend.

However, the long-term neural effects of using a drug intended for medical treatment outweigh the pros of short-term results.

There are better ways to create an ideal concentrating environment. Try to mimic the environment in which you will take a test or in which you feel most comfortable. Know when your peak hours of productivity are. Eliminate as many distractions as possible. Don’t immediately turn to brain-altering drugs for success.

I know that we all wish there were magic pills we could use to get work done. Stimulant drugs might seem like viable options, but their side effects are too dangerous to ignore.

Chandler, a senior psychology and Spanish major from Cary, is a copy editor.