Author: Emily Stets

Stimulant prescription abuse increases in adult population

An increase in productivity in the workplace may be positively correlated with the abuse of the stimulant Adderall. While high school and college students have long abused this drug to help them focus on their schoolwork, a recent New York Times article detailed an increase in adults abusing the drug in the workplace to increase productivity.

This article revealed that in interviews, dozens of people from a wide spectrum of professions said they and co-workers misused stimulants like Adderall, Vyvanse and Concerta to improve work performance. More and more adults have been faking Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder ADHD symptoms to obtain prescriptions to stimulants. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs or access to the medication.

Addiction to unprescribed stimulants has become common in students, but has previously been rare in adults. Dr. Kimberly Dennis, the medical director of Timberline Knolls, a substance-abuse treatment facility for women outside Chicago, said, “We are definitely seeing more than one year ago, more than two years ago, especially in the age range of 25 to 45.”

This trend is not just found in the public workplace. Some stay-at-home mothers admit to taking Adderall. Lisa Dawes, a stay-at-home mother from Indiana, calls the pill “like mommy crack.” She admits to have taken the pill regularly over the course of three years. This expands the type of adults abusing these stimulants and adds another layer of complexity to this abuse: it not only encompasses working adults motivated to perform efficiently, but also individuals struggling to maintain a stable home life.

It is not enough that we live in an overworked and sleep-deprived nation, but now it has gotten to the point where people are so desperate to succeed that working hard is simply not enough. In a way, taking Adderall makes sense. If you don’t use it, someone else will take it and they will be more productive than you and stand out more. They will be up for promotion and will eventually climb the corporate ladder until one day, they are your boss. Your superiors either won’t care or they won’t notice that one of you was only more productive due to the use of stimulant that provided an unfair advantage. All they care about is the end result and the final product.

The ideas of working and having a career have become twisted. We have developed into a powerful nation with a fantastic workforce behind it. But it is not worth it if the workplace becomes a place where doing one’s best is simply not enough. The problem does not lie directly with the misuse of the drug. If people are feeling as if the only way for them to succeed is by taking drugs to complete more work than their colleagues, then something is wrong with the message, not the person.

Elizabeth, a Long Island native in her late 20s, said that not to take Adderall while competitors did would be like playing tennis with a wood racket. In a way, the use of Adderall in the workplace is much like an athlete’s use of amphetamines, which enhance athletes’ abilities and make them stronger. Steroids make athletes perform better, though with negative side effects and consequences if caught by their sport’s regulations committee. Members of a workplace should not have to feel so desperate to be so productive that the only way they can accomplish such a goal is by taking Adderall or other stimulants.

In some industries, the use of stimulants has been banned due to “reasons of safety and fairness.” According to the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there is an increase in emergency room visits due to the misuse of prescription stimulants.

The message that society is sending out to the younger generation is this: you will never be good enough. You must become a better version of yourself preferably with stimulants in order to succeed. It won’t matter that you will have some nasty side effects or that you will be breaking the company’s rules as long as it gets you ahead.

Is this really the message we want to send?

Devon Brichetto ’18 briche1@stolaf.edu is from Grand Rapids, Mich. She majors in biology.

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

DMCP critiques technology obsession

The Northfield News previewed the St. Olaf Theater Department’s production of Dead Man’s Cell Phone in early March, describing the play’s take on “modern technology’s ability to both unite and isolate people in the modern age.” The play opens in a cafe with an awkward, cellphone-less woman named Jean on a break from her job at the Holocaust Museum. She expresses irritation and eventual annoyance when the man next to her fails to answer his cell phone multiple times. Jean soon realizes the man is dead and becomes fixated on the people who continue to call his phone after he has died.

The play explores our reliance on and obsession with technology, especially cell phones. Since the invention of the smartphone, companies have increased the number of applications available on cell phones. Where phones were once used for calling, they soon became vehicles for texting, email, Facebook, Twitter, video chatting, checking news sources, Instagram, TimeHop and if all that isn’t enough for you, there are always games! When you step back and think about it, the depth and breadth of applications available on smartphones is impressive, and even more impressive is the number of people using these apps.

I could delve into a tirade about the evils of technology, how it separates us from each other, from our world, from our experiences with the world, but anything I have to say pales in comparison to the play’s expression of this phenomenon. Dead Man’s Cell Phone nearly whalloped the audience over the head with the idea of too much connection. In the play, Jean’s obsession with the cell phone is such that she feels compelled to answer in all situations, including while kissing Dwight, the man she falls in love with and who is also the brother of the dead man.

Shannon Cron ’15, the show’s director, hoped that Dead Man’s Cell Phone would “give [students] a new perspective on their use of technology and connections with other people.”

As much as I wish this were possible, I’m afraid this message is consistently lost on the intended audience. Even in the face of a play that combines the absurdism of, say, being trapped in “hell” where the only outer-world communication you can hear is through cell phones with the realism of obsession in such a poignant manner, I fear that endless diatribes against technology continue to fall flat.

It’s enough to make me wonder about the role of the arts behind an idea such as this. What is the best a writer, director or actor can hope for in imparting this message? Perhaps that the audience members will think twice about reaching for their phones every time they ring or work to be more present in their own lives. But how long will that last? A week? An evening, if that?

This show comes on the cusp of countless media outlets imploring us to unplug from technology I often wonder at the irony of this message, communicated through the “cursed” media outlets themselves. However, theater remains one of the last great strongholds in which we as a society unplug. At one point in the show, the dead man’s mother makes a comment about how there are few places in society where cell phones don’t ring anymore: the church and the theater.

Placing this timely message in the context of a play strenghtens its message. The audience grows attached to the characters, can feel their anxiety and sorrow enough to – dare I say it? – consider altering their perspective on technology.

Will it change all behavior? Probably not. Yet the execution of this message underscores its importance at this time and place, particularly on a college campus. As many of us begin to transition into a working life, this show serves as a reminder of the value of true connection with others. Perhaps Dead Man’s Cell Phone, in combination with other critiques of our obsession with technology, may serve as collective weight that breaks the habit.

Emily Stets ’15 stetsec@stolaf.edu is from Northfield, Minn. Her CIS major is Public Mental Health: Wellness and the Arts.

Graphic Credit: LOUISA CARROLL/MANITOU MESSENGER

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Neglect of chapel time points to NCHA statistics

I came to St. Olaf with a preconceived notion of what daily chapel service would be like. My parents, both Ole alumni, always mentioned chapel time while reminiscing about their college years. The entire campus stopped during those precious 45 minutes and everyone convened in one place, my mother would tell me. In that day, perhaps more students identified as Lutheran, but by no means did they all practice their religion to the same degree. Chapel time was a short spiritual pause in the day for fellowship, music and prayer.

Chapel attendance has decreased among Oles since my parents’ time, and I cannot help but wonder at the correlation between decreased interest in chapel and trends described in the National College Health Assessment NCHA from 2014: Oles are stressed out. Students, faculty and administration alike are well aware of this fact.

When I came to St. Olaf after graduating from high school in 2011, The Board of Regents Student Committee BORSC Report of 2010 had just been released. Its findings?

– Over 92 percent of Oles report feeling overwhelmed in the past 12 months, compared with the national average of 86.4 percent.

– The number of Oles reporting exhaustion also beats national averages, at 87 percent compared to the 81 percent average.

– More St. Olaf students sought treatment for depression 12.8 percent than the national average 10.1 percent. And this only measures those who sought help – it may not include the many others who suffered from depression and failed to report it.

– Over 68 percent of Oles reported feeling lonely, surpassing the national average of 57 percent.

Current research from the NCHA of 2014 suggests these numbers have increased in the four years I have attended St. Olaf. I can almost feel these changes occurring – those numbers ticking up every time I sit down and talk my friend or myself through a breakdown, when I see others rushing to their activities in a frenzy of over-commitment, when I collapse into my bed and realize I haven’t stopped moving since six that morning. Most of us know this feeling.

My plan for part of an intervention? Chapel time.

Notice I didn’t say chapel service. I care about the intention behind the time spent in those 45 minutes, not your specific location during them. It’s always amazing to me that people still feel overbooked in every minute of their days, when there are 45 specific minutes mapped out where gasp there are no classes, gasp no meetings, and gasp no commitments.

And don’t you dare shake your head and tell me that that’s when you meet with your advisor or your organization, or catch up on homework for your 10:45 class. You might as well eat your words: that time is filled because you filled it yourself.

During chapel time, the college blocks out 45 minutes for students to attend chapel if they wish, or simply to take a mental break during the day. Many of the main offices are closed, including the Post Office, the Student Activities Office and the Registrar’s Office, to name a few. Yet Oles continue to fill chapel time to bursting when it should be approached with intention and reverence. Is nothing sacred anymore? Will we do nothing in reaction to the NCHA’s troubling assessment of St. Olaf’s state of affairs? I do not enjoy the fact that 92 percent of us that are stressed, exhausted, depressed and lonely. Consider this time with respect for your own mental well-being and that of this community.

I am also not asking you to add another thing to your plate – this part of the intervention does not entail “adding” chapel time to your daily activities. It involves integrating something that is already present, but hidden: the time to stop. To rest. To be.

To paraphrase the author Wayne Mueller in his book Sabbath: “We do not stop because we have accomplished everything on our to-do list. We stop because it’s time to stop.”

Emily Stets ’15 stetsec@stolaf.edu is from Northfield, Minn. She is a CIS major in Public Mental Health: Wellness and the Arts.

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

How to survive Stav Hall

Without a doubt, one of the most stressful exercises of Week One involves maneuvering through Stav Hall, more affectionately known as the Caf. It’s like the most intense game of Monopoly you’ve ever played at 4 a.m., as people dive for the last brownie or piece of pie … well, not exactly, but it’s terrifying enough to be bottle-necked through the cash registers and into a world with new rules.

While the Caf can be a social experiment in lemming-like behavior, it doesn’t have to be. Before you pass Go, before you collect $200, we’ll help you avoid being yelled at and run over because you don’t know what you’re doing. Armed with your Ole dollars and tray or without your tray if you choose to go trayless to help prevent water and food waste, enter the Caf.

Your first left includes the home line, the tortilla line, and the pasta line. These are great places to pick up your basic staples, if that’s your style. However, the grill, bowls and grains lines hold unexpected surprises if you can navigate the foot traffic properly. Grains is always a good place to find surprisingly tasty vegetarian or alternative dishes. The Food Lane also includes the sandwich line, the salad bar, the toasters and panini-makers, the drinks, cereal, and desserts.

Once you know what awaits you inside the Caf, you can tell that it is not uncommon for first-years to become frozen in their tracks. If this happens to you, go directly to jail. Do not pass Go; do not collect $200. Take cover by the cereal until the stampede passes.

To avoid first-time Caf trauma, use these tips to facilitate a quick, easy Stav experience.

You don’t have to go to only one line. In fact, most students head to multiple lines, picking and choosing their meals. It takes a little longer, but saves you time in the long run, and people who mosaic are generally more satisfied with their meals.

4:30 p.m. dinner is a best-kept Stav secret. Early dinner means a completely different crowd of people, and all the best desserts haven’t been taken yet. Going to dinner right when the Caf opens is like getting a head start halfway around the board while your friends are lounging in jail.

Chocolate soy milk is the best unkept secret at Olaf: many students prefer it over regular chocolate milk. I once felt guilty being at the front of a five person line for the chocolate soy milk. I looked back and asked, “Are any of you lactose intolerant?” They all shook their heads. Point for the chocolate soy milk, and point for you!

Make friends with the Caf workers and Bon Appétit staff. It’s like making friends with the Banker – you never know when he’ll be able to bail you out. Our Stav staff – headed by the legendary Randy Clay – are definitely worth getting to know. If the same Caf worker always swipes your ID for dinner or memorizes your bag lunch order, remember his or her name.

Don’t be afraid to go to meals by yourself! It’s not embarrassing; on the contrary, no one is paying as much attention to you as you think they are. You have to go it alone when your schedule demands it, and look on the bright side: no one has picked over the desserts yet.

After you get your food, drinks, desserts and second desserts, enter the seating area and decide where to sit. The rules here are flexible depending on what you’re looking for, whether it’s the conversational round tables, a long rectangular table for large groups, a date table also appropriate for that date with yourself and that reading you forgot to do or the booths.

You can choose what properties you lay claim to. Some people are booth-fanatics because of the view; some like it for the privacy and lack of noise for homework. It’s more fun when we can all rotate around Stav and see different people, so don’t get in the habit of sitting in just one spot. You’ll miss out on all the other places.

When you’re finished, you place your tray to a constantly rotating machine, where Oles often yell “Thank you!” to the workers, who call back, “Welcome!” Then, take time to peruse the infinitely exciting and often hilarious comment board just outside the Caf entrance. Here, students scrawl notes to the Caf staff about how they liked or didn’t like the food, requests for their favorite dishes or desserts, and nutritional queries. Randy Clay answers most of the comments with his dry, straightforward humor. The best question I ever saw was “Are grapefruits gluten-free?” He didn’t even answer that one. He has also been known to respond to queries for dating advice.

After all that, now you may pass Go. Now you may collect $200. By now, you’re either more confused about the Caf than you were before, or more panicked that you’re going to get run over by the swim team on their way up from practice. If this situation arises, the duck-and-cover method by the cereal always works.

Best of luck!

stetsec@stolaf.edu

Photo Credit: Manitou Messenger Archive

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Syringe exchange program

When the topic of HIV/AIDS arises, there are some conclusions that many agree on. Is it a problem that needs immediate attention? Yes. Can education and outreach reduce the infection rate of the disease? Absolutely. How exactly are we going to do this? Well … no one really knows the answer to that, and if they do, it usually involves a seemingly radical solution.

Along with education, outreach and free HIV testing and counseling services, the Minnesota AIDS Project MAP has taken a more aggressive stance to combat the spread of HIV infection in Minnesota, particularly in the Twin Cities area. One of their methods frequently comes under fire in outreach sessions: their needle exchange program.

The needle exchange vehicle, dubbed the Mainline, is a refurbished van created to service clients in the Metro Area. The van includes an inside office where clients can exchange their used needles for clean ones and receive testing, referrals and condoms.

Naturally, many individuals oppose this program, claiming that it enables intravenous drug users to continue using both recreational and hard drugs, thereby counteracting the true purpose of the Minnesota AIDS Project.

I was skeptical of the program myself when I learned of it in an HIV educator training course two weekends ago. While I was sure MAP had legitimate reasons for the syringe exchange program, I wanted more information about its creation. MAP anticipated this opposition, and with their facts and the statistics, I have to say that their argument convinced me.

For one, the program hardly “enables” intravenous substance users. MAP shies away from using the word “addict,” as some people might not identify with this word and therefore ignore the much-needed information. MAP’s stance is that these substance users will continue in their practices despite what health officials and experts say, and the program chooses to focus on the greater issue – HIV transmission – rather than attempting to halt intravenous drug use. Focusing on drug use is not their primary mission in this case.

Through the syringe exchange program, MAP is able to communicate with their clients and form relationships in a non-threatening environment. In this way, those who come to exchange their syringes also have access to information on HIV/AIDS, trained professionals willing to walk them through situations and an overall safety net if they choose to stop using drugs.

Sharing needles poses an extremely high risk of HIV transmission. According to the MAP training program, where others states’ rate of HIV transmission through needles is 9 percent, Minnesota’s rate is 2 percent. This extreme difference is partially a result of this strong exchange program. MAP should be commended for their work, not belittled by others who refuse to learn the facts.

The Minnesota AIDS Project uses groundbreaking and progressive methods to combat the rate of HIV infection. The syringe exchange program is one such method. Many opponents of this program fail to realize the prevalence of HIV, and the misinformed and uneducated voices must not drown out the proven efficacy of this program.

Opinions editor Emily Stets ’15 stets@stolaf.edu is from Northfield, Minn. She is a CIS major in creative arts and mental health.

Graphic Credit: DANIEL BYNUM/MANITOU MESSENGER

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote