A recent article in USA Today about the challenges of dealing with ADHD at college suggested students keep their conditions – and their prescriptions – secret from their peers.
The reason? Abuse of stimulant medications like Adderall and Ritalin is rampant on college campuses, where the medications are used as “study drugs” and also to provide a boost of energy during long nights of drinking and partying.
As a result, students with such prescriptions can find themselves under intense pressure to share or sell their pills.
But when students keep their meds a secret from peers, does anyone actually benefit?
Today I’m featuring the story of Allie, a 21-year-old college senior in Wisconsin who was ultimately diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Allie kept her unhappiness a secret and didn’t begin taking medication when she was old enough to ask for it without her parents finding out.
Allie’s story is interesting, because it shows how kids can suffer from severe depression from a very young age. It also shows how in a culture where psychiatric drugs seem ubiquitous kids can come to focus on medication as a source of salvation.
A reader’s story about taking meds has spurred me to address a topic I’ve been mulling about for some time now: the ways in which people do or don’t discuss their medications with their significant others.
The reader, a 21-year-old who wanted to go only by “CJ” was plagued by several concerns about taking medication long-term. Among them was the possibility of “meeting someone” and then needing to disclose having a psychiatric diagnosis and a regimen of psychopharmaceuticals, without which, CJ, said “I’m a different person, a scary person.”
I found it sad and poignant that this was among this young person’s top concerns concerning medication. But for better or worse, taking psychiatric medication is a very private act, something we must decide whether or not to disclose to others.
The decision to do so or not to do so takes on outsize importance as young people navigate their first serious relationships.