Students face anxiety as the school year ends

by Richard S. Winer, M.D. | Medication, Parents, Students

As the month of April concludes, there is more than April showers bringing May flowers. This is particularly true in the academic settings around the country with students coming down the home stretch of the school year. This is a time of year for considerable anxiety for students. How will I do on my finals? Will I be able to graduate with my class? What do I do once I graduate? Those are just some of the questions that are being posed by students and family members during this stressful time. It is uncanny how often over my years of practice that new patient appointments are set up at this time of the year by parents and young people for a variety of reasons.

There are those presented with focus and concentration problems that have existed not just during this school year, but probably virtually every other school year before. However, there is a sense of despair and fear that the grades will not come about without some form of treatment. It is as though ADHD somehow has made a guest appearance along with some depression and anxiety mixed in as well. There are those in the schools and universities of this country who seek out medications–most notably stimulants–just prior to finals as a way of boosting academic performance. Granted, these meds are capable of providing a quick bit of help to even those who do not have ADHD, but those meds will likely not continue to provide that boost.

On college campuses before finals, it is not unusual for the shorter-acting stimulants to carry a black market value ten times that of the extended-release products. Fortunately, the trend in ADHD medication is toward the longer acting products that do not have the kick, jolt, or buzz expected from other medications not to mention the big drop-off and subsequent rebound of anxiety and mood swings.

There is no lack of creativity on the part of those who might try to abuse medications or substances of any kind. They might try, but they will find some of the newer products, be they capsules or patches, much tougher to abuse. Interestingly, those who really have ADHD are usually trying to settle in with as low a dose as possible to handle their ADHD symptoms involving hyperactivity, inattention, impulsivity, and irritability. Those with ADHD have what I often refer to as an “over-under” condition as they feel overwhelmed and underachieving. This lower-than-expected productivity can indeed lead to further complications with depression and anxiety. Appropriate and successful treatment of ADHD can frequently have a “spillover” effect on those depressive and anxiety symptoms.

Hopefully, students will successfully conclude the semester whether or not they have ADHD. For those graduating high school, there is the great anxiety about their next endeavor of college, work, or something else. For those graduating college, there is the great anxiety about their next endeavor of more schooling or trying to find work in a tough economic climate. That topic is something else that just might show up in a future post.

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