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What Are 'Anti-Sleep Pills' That Students Are Popping To Cram for Exams?

Amid academic pressures, a dangerous trend of students taking anti-sleep pills has come to light.

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Prajakta, a Class 10 student from Lucknow was preparing for her Class 10 board exam when she was rushed to the hospital and had to undergo emergancy surgery due to a drug overdose.

Turns out, unbeknownst to her family, Prajakta had been taking 'anti-sleep' medicine along with large amounts of caffeine to help her stay up for long hours to cram for her exams. This in turn caused nerve damage and a brain clot, because of which she collapsed.

Prajakta's story once again throws up concerns of the kind of academic pressure and stress students in India face, and the lengths to which they will go to get good grades, even at the cost of their health.

What are anti-sleep pills? How do young school students get access to them? How damaging are they? FIT explains.

What Are 'Anti-Sleep Pills' That Students Are Popping To Cram for Exams?

  1. 1. What Are Anti Sleep Pills? What Are They Used For?

    Simply put, anti-sleep pills help you stay awake, making you feel more alert and less sleepy. Why would one need medication to ward off sleep?

    Speaking to FIT, Dr Dhruv Bibra, Sr Consultant at Delhi Pain Management Centre says, "Such pills are prescribed to people with a sleep disorder known as narcolepsy."

    He adds,

    "People with narcolepsy often experience excessive daytime sleepiness and exhibit symptoms such as sleep paralysis, hallucinations during sleep or upon waking up, and cataplexy, which is a sudden loss of muscle tone typically triggered by strong emotions like laughter or surprise."

    To counter this, patients of narcolepsy are often prescribed Modafinil – the drug Prajakta was reportedly found to be abusing.

    Speaking to FIT, Dr Aporva Sharma, a neurologist at Manipal Hospital Gurgaon, explains,

    She adds,

    "It works by affecting specific neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and histamine. By increasing the activity of these neurotransmitters, particularly in areas involved in regulating sleep-wake cycles, modafinil promotes wakefulness and reduces excessive daytime sleepiness."

    In India, Modafinil is commonly prescribed under the brand name Provigil.

    Expand
  2. 2. How are Kids Getting Access to Anti-sleep Pills?

    According to Dr Bibra this medication (Modafinil and other anti-sleep pills) should never be sold without a prescription. Additionally, individuals should only consume the pills for the duration recommended by their healthcare provider.

    However, evidently, people who want to get their hands on the drug have found ways around the restriction.

    "These drugs are being sold over the counters with names like ‘chuniya’ and ‘meethi’. This is a very dangerous trend and the drugs are being smuggled in from cities like Bangkok," neurologist Dr Sharad Srivastava was quoted as saying by IANS.

    Expand
  3. 3. Why Is It Dangerous?

    "Every medication is designed to treat a disorder and not to accommodate changes in lifestyle due to work schedules or pressure. These medicines should never be consumed to stay awake due to work pressure, shift work, or academic studies."
    Dr Dhruv Bibra, Pain Specialist

    In such cases what makes it even more risky is that the medication, its dosage, and its effects on the body are not monitored by a doctor.

    Modofil has a long list of side effects, including,

    • Nausea or vomiting

    • Digestive issues

    • Blurred vision

    • Palpitations or increased heart rate

    • Mood changes, including agitation or irritability

    • Difficulty concentrating or memory problems

    • Hallucinations or delusions

    • Seizures or convulsions

    • Respiratory depression or difficulty breathing

    • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

    • Loss of consciousness or coma

    • Liver damage or other organ toxicity

    Experts say its particularly detrimental when taken with caffeine.

    Moreover, according to Dr Dhruv Bibra, individuals can develop a psychological dependence on these medications due to their addictive nature.

    Expand
  4. 4. 'Late-Night Study Culture is Toxic'

    Dr Santosh Chaturvedi, an independent psychiatrist, says mounting academic stress and the fear of failure motivate students to slog, even at the expense of sleep, meals and exercise.

    Social expectations, peer pressure, and the desire to match or surpass classmates' academic achievements, create a competitive environment where students feel compelled to study late into the night.

    Additionally, parental expectations for academic excellence and encouragement to study longer hours contribute to students sacrificing sleep for their studies. Observing peers or parents engaging in late-night studying normalizes this behavior, further reinforcing the belief that sleep deprivation is necessary for academic success, he says.

    Positive reinforcement for late-night studying, coupled with fear of failure and a perceived sense of control over academic performance, perpetuates the cycle of sacrificing sleep in pursuit of academic goals.

    Expand
  5. 5. Tips for Parents: How to Encourage Healthy Patterns in Kids

    Dr Ishita Bhatt, Psychologist at Medanta Medicity, Gurgaon, highlights the vital role parents play in ending the toxic culture of late-night cramming and overworking among students.

    Here are some things parents can do to promote a healthier relationship with academics among their kids.

    • Encourage Balanced Priorities

    Stress the importance of balancing academic pursuits with health. Prioritizing adequate sleep is crucial for overall well-being and academic success.

    • Set Realistic Expectations

    Establishing realistic academic expectations based on each child's abilities and interests is essential. Avoid undue pressure to achieve unrealistic goals to prevent excessive stress and sleep deprivation.

    • Promote Healthy Study Habits

    Encourage effective study habits, such as taking regular breaks, managing time efficiently, and using productive studying techniques, helps maximize productivity without sacrificing sleep.

    • Model Healthy Behavior

    Children often mimic their parents' behavior, so lead by example. Prioritize your own sleep and demonstrate a healthy work-life balance.

    • Create a Supportive Environment

    Foster an open and supportive environment where children feel comfortable discussing academic challenges and seeking help when needed is essential. Provide guidance and support without imposing excessive pressure to help children thrive academically while maintaining their well-being.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What Are Anti Sleep Pills? What Are They Used For?

Simply put, anti-sleep pills help you stay awake, making you feel more alert and less sleepy. Why would one need medication to ward off sleep?

Speaking to FIT, Dr Dhruv Bibra, Sr Consultant at Delhi Pain Management Centre says, "Such pills are prescribed to people with a sleep disorder known as narcolepsy."

He adds,

"People with narcolepsy often experience excessive daytime sleepiness and exhibit symptoms such as sleep paralysis, hallucinations during sleep or upon waking up, and cataplexy, which is a sudden loss of muscle tone typically triggered by strong emotions like laughter or surprise."

To counter this, patients of narcolepsy are often prescribed Modafinil – the drug Prajakta was reportedly found to be abusing.

Speaking to FIT, Dr Aporva Sharma, a neurologist at Manipal Hospital Gurgaon, explains,

She adds,

"It works by affecting specific neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and histamine. By increasing the activity of these neurotransmitters, particularly in areas involved in regulating sleep-wake cycles, modafinil promotes wakefulness and reduces excessive daytime sleepiness."

In India, Modafinil is commonly prescribed under the brand name Provigil.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

How are Kids Getting Access to Anti-sleep Pills?

According to Dr Bibra this medication (Modafinil and other anti-sleep pills) should never be sold without a prescription. Additionally, individuals should only consume the pills for the duration recommended by their healthcare provider.

However, evidently, people who want to get their hands on the drug have found ways around the restriction.

"These drugs are being sold over the counters with names like ‘chuniya’ and ‘meethi’. This is a very dangerous trend and the drugs are being smuggled in from cities like Bangkok," neurologist Dr Sharad Srivastava was quoted as saying by IANS.

0

Why Is It Dangerous?

"Every medication is designed to treat a disorder and not to accommodate changes in lifestyle due to work schedules or pressure. These medicines should never be consumed to stay awake due to work pressure, shift work, or academic studies."
Dr Dhruv Bibra, Pain Specialist

In such cases what makes it even more risky is that the medication, its dosage, and its effects on the body are not monitored by a doctor.

Modofil has a long list of side effects, including,

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Digestive issues

  • Blurred vision

  • Palpitations or increased heart rate

  • Mood changes, including agitation or irritability

  • Difficulty concentrating or memory problems

  • Hallucinations or delusions

  • Seizures or convulsions

  • Respiratory depression or difficulty breathing

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • Loss of consciousness or coma

  • Liver damage or other organ toxicity

Experts say its particularly detrimental when taken with caffeine.

Moreover, according to Dr Dhruv Bibra, individuals can develop a psychological dependence on these medications due to their addictive nature.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

'Late-Night Study Culture is Toxic'

Dr Santosh Chaturvedi, an independent psychiatrist, says mounting academic stress and the fear of failure motivate students to slog, even at the expense of sleep, meals and exercise.

Social expectations, peer pressure, and the desire to match or surpass classmates' academic achievements, create a competitive environment where students feel compelled to study late into the night.

Additionally, parental expectations for academic excellence and encouragement to study longer hours contribute to students sacrificing sleep for their studies. Observing peers or parents engaging in late-night studying normalizes this behavior, further reinforcing the belief that sleep deprivation is necessary for academic success, he says.

Positive reinforcement for late-night studying, coupled with fear of failure and a perceived sense of control over academic performance, perpetuates the cycle of sacrificing sleep in pursuit of academic goals.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Tips for Parents: How to Encourage Healthy Patterns in Kids

Dr Ishita Bhatt, Psychologist at Medanta Medicity, Gurgaon, highlights the vital role parents play in ending the toxic culture of late-night cramming and overworking among students.

Here are some things parents can do to promote a healthier relationship with academics among their kids.

  • Encourage Balanced Priorities

Stress the importance of balancing academic pursuits with health. Prioritizing adequate sleep is crucial for overall well-being and academic success.

  • Set Realistic Expectations

Establishing realistic academic expectations based on each child's abilities and interests is essential. Avoid undue pressure to achieve unrealistic goals to prevent excessive stress and sleep deprivation.

  • Promote Healthy Study Habits

Encourage effective study habits, such as taking regular breaks, managing time efficiently, and using productive studying techniques, helps maximize productivity without sacrificing sleep.

  • Model Healthy Behavior

Children often mimic their parents' behavior, so lead by example. Prioritize your own sleep and demonstrate a healthy work-life balance.

  • Create a Supportive Environment

Foster an open and supportive environment where children feel comfortable discussing academic challenges and seeking help when needed is essential. Provide guidance and support without imposing excessive pressure to help children thrive academically while maintaining their well-being.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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