Students consider unhealthy habits as finals pressure sets in

State Hornet Staff

While feeling the pressure of deadlines and exams, Sacramento State students have begun to prepare for the last few weeks of the semester.

With the 24-hour Academic and Information Resource Center available late at night, many students have turned to unhealthy habits, such as cram-studying, all-nighters and the use of  caffeinated beverages and even Adderall.

Hannah Lifson, a 21-year-old communication studies major, said although she studies privately with frequent breaks and minimal distractions, it can become stressful.

“[By] having a full course load, it’s hard not to cram,” Lifson said. “There seems to not be enough hours in the day. It becomes very challenging when finals comes around, but time management is key.”

Lifson said despite her healthy routines, she occasionally sees poor habits in other students.

“Some other students have awful study habits,” Lifson said. “I’ve heard of students taking Adderall before. They stay up all night and cram.”

Psychostimulants like energy drinks and caffeine increase mental alertness and decrease the need for sleep, which is especially helpful for students who feel the need to stay up all night to study for a test, said psychology professor Jeff Calton.

Adderall, a brand of amphetamine that has many of the same effects as other stimulants only much more extreme, is a prescription drug used to treat symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that gives a person the energy to focus.

Marissa Anderson, a 20-year-old government major, has been prescribed Adderall for her ADHD since she was young.

“It’s very beneficial and helps keep me focused on the task at hand,” Anderson said. “ADHD has affected my grades in the past, but they have definitely been higher with the prescription.”

Students like Anderson who rely on Adderall to attend to their school work have motivated others to seek out the same effects. The use of Adderall by college students for studying purposes is on the rise.

Many studies, like those done by psychologists M. Elizabeth Smith and Martha J. Farah at the University of Pennsylvania, have addressed the issue of whether stimulants can be effective cognitive enhancers, as many students commonly believe, but the results vary according to a number of factors.

Calton said when measured in the laboratory, the effects on cognitive performance are present, but are not very large.

It is possible that students are overestimating the benefit. For more potent stimulants like Adderall, there can oftentimes be serious consequences if used in excess, he said.

“My primary concern with anyone using these drugs for cognitive performance is that it is very easy to develop a psychological dependence to the substance,” Calton said. “The drug is used as a crutch and the student may feel as though they can only perform well academically when using the drug. They may believe that they don’t have to put in the normal effort to learn the material if they can just use the stimulant instead.”

Sac State professors believe effective studying can be done with minimal procrastination and healthy habits.

Sociology professor Rosemary Anzini-Varesio said she notices a strong difference in grades between students who cram study all night and those who study throughout the semester.

“It happens a lot and students will even admit it,” Anzini-Varesio said. “I don’t recommend staying up all night and if they kept up on their readings throughout the semester, they wouldn’t have to.”

While the Student Health and Counseling Services center on campus currently provides information and resources designed to counsel students towards studying in a healthier manner and to help with stress, they were not available for comment.