The pressure to stay awake: Student caffeine and drug abuse

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HUNTSVILLE, Al. (WZDX) – The value of an education has never been higher. GPA requirements for college admissions are rising, while schools are looking for students who are “well-rounded” and involved in just about everything. There’s more pressure than ever for students to succeed in school. But, do all these requirements leave any time for sleep?

Students often turn to alternative substances to have enough energy just to get through the day. From excessive caffeine intakes to turning to “study drugs” to stay awake, students are putting themselves at risk to achieve academic excellence. Both habits are dangerous and could be potentially life threatening for students. 

We met up with Dr. Kelli Stringer of Huntsville Hospital who shared some information with us on the importance of sleep for students and the dangers of developing addictions to substances used to stay awake.

Dr. Stringer says, “The use of those without a physician is generally completely not advised…Those substances will harm you, they will change the chemicals in your brain and the way your brain works.”

She advises that parents keep a close eye on their child’s sleeping habits. Consider asking them about school and help come up with ways that work for the whole family to decompress and relieve stress. Sometimes pressure to achieve at home can fuel these dependencies on caffeine and even drugs such as Adderall, Ritalin or other drugs without a prescription.  

She says, “As parents, just kind of keep a pulse on what your children are doing and if you see signs or symptoms that their behavior is becoming more erratic, or you’re finding things that may indicate that they’re using substances go straight to your health care provider.”

She also advises parents to not overlook a problem with caffeine in their children. Because we consume it daily, and caffeine is so commercialized, we often overlook the dangers of consuming too much. Don’t encourage your children to stay awake by pouring them a cup of coffee or handing them an energy drink. It’s also not a good idea to give it to them to help them get up for school. 

Dr. Stringer says,“I would say, before high school there really doesn’t need to be any caffeine involved. As they get older you can allow some. But, be very cautious about how much you allow your children to have.”

If you notice that your child may be abusing substances in order to stay awake, be sure to seek medical assistance immediately. 

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