Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Adderall: Performance Enhancing Drug for the Brain?

The use of prescription stimulants as a study and test aid for students is an increasingly popular trend. The most common of these drugs is Adderall, a stimulant of the central nervous system that is used as a medication for those with ADHD. It increases alertness and concentration, overall cognitive performance, and decreases fatigue. Adderall is classified as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substance Act because of its potential for abuse and dependence and yet many college students are using this drug as a study and test aid unworried about the potential consequences.

60 Minutes featured a story on Adderall, focusing on how healthy students use the drug to boost their brain power. The use of what scientist call cognitive enhancers is becoming more common among college and high school students. One study estimated that 6.4% of college students are using stimulants non medically, a number that the Partnership for Drug Free America believes is closer to 25%.

Student interviews and a study at the University of Kentucky-Lexington seem to support these higher numbers. In an interview with Katie Couric, students stated that it was very common to see other students using the pills when they needed to turn out a final paper or cram for an exam. Students commented that taking the drug made them more focused, more interested, and more detail oriented when reading and studying material. A study at the university suggests that around 34% of students are using a stimulant to help them academically.

The big question is; is using Adderall or Ritalin to focus and study longer using a performance enhancing drug for the brain? About 43% of these students think they are increasing their overall grades by at least one letter. Does that mean these drugs are an unfair advantage for students who do not need them medically?

We can draw parallels to the debate against the use of PEDs in sport. There is a pressure for students to get good grades and there is an air of competition in collegiate academics. Students want the best internships and jobs and being the top of the class can give them an extra edge. If half of students improve their grades using drugs, will the other half be forced to use as well to keep up? Will the demand for non-prescription stimulants increase, causing them to become more expensive and to be sold and traded on the black market?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, students who use Adderall nonmedically are more likely to be binge drinkers or heavy drinkers and use illicit drugs when compared to their non-Adderall using peers. This is consistent with what we see with students who use steroids as well.

And of course, like steroids, there are potential consequences that are related to the use of the drug. Side effects of taking Adderall include loss of appetite, insomnia, abdominal pains, temporary increase in blood pressure, weight loss, mood swings, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, increased heart rate, fever and infections. Psychosis is also a side effect of the drug. Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse stated that these stimulants can be addictive and can lead to heart and blood pressure problems. The long term effect on people without attention disorder is also an unknown.

There are arguments that it comes down to a moral belief. Should we use drugs to enhance the abilities of otherwise healthy individuals? What about those who need Adderall because of attention disorder? This drug is supposed to help them function like everyone else. If someone who isn’t afflicted takes Adderall, they again have an advantage.

It is clear that education on the use of drugs needs to be expanded beyond the traditional drugs of abuse (alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, etc.). Those students who believe they are taking a harmless drug that will improve their cognitive abilities need to be aware of the side effects. Also, Adderall is not a miracle drug and cannot replace time in a classroom, or attending lectures.

There is no such thing as a magic pill.

A word of warning: There are serious consequences if you are in possession of the pill without a prescription or if you are caught selling Adderall. It is illegal and can result in jail time.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Healthy Ways to Lose Weight

Fad diets, weight loss supplements, and quick fixes have been promising fast, easy weight loss for years. The reality is, taking a pill or eating one special food will not magically transform your body into the one you have always dreamed of. It is even simpler than that. Eat a healthy, balanced diet and exercise to shed unwanted pounds. Sure, it may take a little longer but the weight loss will last, along with your new healthy habits that can affect you in more ways than just what the scale says. Before you decide to try a weight loss program, talk with your team physician, sports nutritionist and athletic trainer (or your regular physician) to make sure that weight loss is a smart choice for you and that you are healthy enough to exercise.

Before considering weight loss, please remember there are things about our bodies over which we have no control, or that we cannot change like height, body frame, and body shape. On the other hand, there are variables like fluid content of the body, muscle mass, and body fat, that you can change with a goal to positively affect performance and health. If you still choose to start a weight loss program, make sure you are doing it for yourself and not someone else. Set realistic and achievable goals that you can maintain over your lifetime.

Tips for healthy weight loss:

One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories. To lose a pound a week, you need to create a calorie deficit of about 500 calories a day. It seems pretty simple when you look at it this way, but most people grossly underestimate the calories they take in each day or the amount of calories they need in a day.

To estimate how many calories you are currently consuming, eat as you have been normally and keep a food journal, writing down everything you eat or drink for a whole week (including the weekend). Be sure to include even very small snacks, like a handful of pretzels or a cookie. Use an online calorie counter, like the one at MyPyramid.gov, to help you find your calorie intakes for each day. Get an average of your calories over the seven day period. Use that as your current caloric intake.

To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit by cutting calories and adding in exercise (Athletes DO NOT need additional exercise on top of their current workout or practice routine). Small changes in your dietary habits can help you cut 500 calories a day. Here are some tips for cutting back calories while still eating plenty of foods:

1. Be aware of portion sizes. Measure out your portions for awhile until you get used to their look and feel. A serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards.
2. Eat slowly to allow your body to process the feeling of being full. Get rid of the “clean your plate” mentality.
3. Try to only get 250 calories from beverages a day. This may mean cutting down to one soda, coffee, or juice a day. Drink more water.
4. Eat a vegetable with every meal and eat it first, before meat and dessert.
5. Pack dried fruit and oranges, apples, or bananas in your work or school bag each day. Between meals, snack on these instead of going to the vending machine.
6. Choose a salad instead of French fries for a side at fast food restaurants.
7. Eat breakfast; this will help you eat more successfully the remainder of the day. Research has shown that people, who eat breakfast, manage their weight better than those who do not eat breakfast.
8. Eat whole grains such as whole-grain bread, brown rice, oatmeal, etc. They offer essential vitamins, minerals and fiber.
9. Eat healthy fats (olive oil, vegetable oils, avocados and nuts) that are more heart healthy in small amounts.
10. Alcohol provides empty calories. If you are trying to lose weight, cut back your alcohol intake.

Keep a food journal as you start to change your eating habits. This will help ensure that you are making good choices most of the time. You don’t have to cut out your favorite foods, just eat less of them and balance them with other foods throughout the day. Can’t get enough cookies? Place servings in separate bags and grab one serving out of the cupboard. Better yet, don’t keep sweets in the house so that you have to leave the house to indulge. You will still have your favorite foods, just less often.

The other side to losing weight the healthy way is adding in exercise. Add exercise in slowly. For example, don’t jump on a treadmill and try to run five miles the first time out. Start with a 30 minute walk and slowly increase speed and time. Most importantly, find physical activity you enjoy doing. Ride bike, elliptical, swim, run, join step aerobics class, etc. Whatever it is, the more you enjoy it the more likely you are to actually do it. Shoot for 30-60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. (Athletes DO NOT need additional exercise on top of their current workout or practice routine.)

Strength training can help speed metabolism by converting fat to lean muscle tissue. This can help you burn more calories throughout the day. Again, don’t overdo it. You should be lifting weight heavy enough to be difficult but not to the point where you are in pain doing the movement. Gains in strength and muscular endurance come slowly. Lift 3-4 times a week but don’t lift the same muscles two days in a row. (Athletes DO NOT need additional exercise on top of their current workout or practice routine.)

If you are not eating enough, and calories expended during exercise are too high, the end result may be a decrease in muscle mass in addition to body fat. This may result in a decrease in strength, speed and endurance. The body needs fuel to support exercise. If you starve your body, it will try to save whatever calories it can as fat in preparation for starvation. Keep this in mind, especially if you are an athlete trying to decrease body fat.

A final word of advice: Set goals for yourself that are more than just a number on the scale. Weight can be deceiving. Keep track of how your clothes are fitting. Set a goal to run a 5K or participate in a Walk for MS. These small goals will shift the focus off of just losing pounds to maintaining a healthier lifestyle and achievement.