Drug Use in College Can Destroy Career Aspirations

I was recently told a story about an employer participating in a recruiting day at a local university. The recruiter was representing a Federal law enforcement agency. Amazingly, some students seeking information about Federal employment approached the recruiter’s booth reeking of marijuana. The college students appeared dumbfounded when the recruiter advised that applicants for this particular agency must be drug-free for five years prior to being eligible for employment, or longer if other drugs are used. As young people pursue higher education and the experiences college offers, keeping an eye on the future is always advised. Experimental drug use can disqualify a 4.0 GPA college graduate from incredible employment opportunities after graduation and put them years behind the careers of their drug-free counterparts.

When a person thinks about the drugs young adults are exposed to in college, one of the first to come to mind is usually marijuana. However, it has been established that drug use has expanded into the area of prescription drugs as well. One prescription drug in particular that is highly abused on college campuses is Adderall, a central nervous system stimulant used to treat ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Most of the Adderall abused on campus is obtained from students who may legitimately have ADHD. These students have legitimate prescriptions for Adderall, but have decided to illegally divert the medication to other students. Students typically take Adderall to stay awake preparing for classes and exams or to attend an all-night party. Although it may be perceived as a harmless act at the time, students who obtain drugs illegally during college may be disqualified from obtaining lucrative employment for years after graduation, or banned completely from some opportunities entirely.

College graduates can develop drug addictions and continue to misuse prescription or other illegal drugs after graduation. For these young adults, employment will be increasing difficult to attain because most employers drug test applicants as well as conduct random drug testing during employment. Over 80% of Fortune 500 companies perform drug and alcohol testing of their employees. (1) The largest employer in our country, the U.S. Government, typically requires abstinence from illegal drug use for several years before they will consider an applicant eligible for employment. Depending on the drug abused and length of the abuse, a potential candidate for Federal employment may never be considered eligible. When applying to a Federal job, applicants are required to complete a drug-use questionnaire. This is typically followed by a polygraph examination to detect deception. Additionally, it is critical for applicants to be honest in their responses when applying for any job because if it is discovered they are misrepresenting the facts, they may be immediately disqualified or terminated and may even face criminal charges.

The temptation to use prescription stimulants in college is strong for many students because the drugs provide increased wakefulness and energy. The stimulants can seemingly assist busy students by providing more time to address school work and removing the feeling of tiredness and need to sleep. However, studies have found that the stimulants do not enhance learning or thinking ability when taken by people who do not actually have ADHD. Additionally, research has shown that students who abuse prescription stimulants like Adderall who are not diagnosed with an attention deficit actually have lower GPAs in college than those who do not. (2)

There are other considerations against abusing stimulants like Adderall aside from the potential career derailment. Taking Adderall without being prescribed and medically supervised by a physician can also be physically harmful and may lead to long-term addiction. Stimulants like Adderall can increase blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature, as well as decrease sleep and appetite. Lack of sleep and malnutrition not only impair judgment and cognitive abilities, but can have long-term negative effects on the body, especially if there are any pre-existing medical conditions. Repeated abuse of stimulants can lead to feelings of hostility and paranoia and at high doses, they can lead to serious cardiovascular complications, including stroke. (3)

Adderall is a particularly dangerous drug for college students to abuse because of its highly addictive qualities. As a result, Adderall has been placed in the highest possible schedule for approved prescriptions under the federal list of controlled substances (Schedule II), similar to Hydrocodone and Oxycontin. Similar to the dangers of other Schedule II narcotics, mixing Adderall with alcohol is very dangerous because it increases the risk of alcohol poisoning. This is because the alertness Adderall produces can mask the effects of severe alcohol intoxication. Someone taking Adderall might not realize how intoxicated they are, as it may prevent them from getting tired, falling asleep, and ultimately ending their party for the evening. As a result, they do not stop drinking and eventually end up with alcohol poisoning. (4)

College students are advised to abstain from the temptations of illegal drug use and recreational prescription drug use in order to secure their future. While it may seem harmless or even necessary at the time, taking marijuana, Adderall, and other drugs can have a devastating result. Additionally, individuals who share or sell any legitimate prescription drugs, including Adderall, are committing a felony and could be prosecuted for drug trafficking and other federal offenses. Most importantly, students should maintain a healthy drug free lifestyle throughout college in order to be fully functioning during classes as well as prepared and eligible to enter the job market after graduation. Otherwise, instead of pursuing desired career aspirations, young people may be pursuing addiction intervention.

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