Education Law

Students Use Beta Blockers To Make the Grade

Crib notes and even text messaging may be extinct when it comes to cheating in school. Students have discovered a new and technically legal way to get a "little help" in and out of the classroom.

Beta Blockers

Some students have discovered the "benefits" of beta blockers. These are prescription drugs used to treat a number of medical problems, such as heart conditions and high-blood pressure. How do they help students?

For years, professional musicians have used the drugs to fight performance anxiety or "stage fright." Students use them for exactly the same effect. The drugs help to ease anxiety so students can relax and focus on the task at hand, whether it's performing in a school play, a big football game, a final exam, or the SAT.

Who's taking the drugs? There are reports college students and high school students are using beta blockers for non-medical reasons.

Health and Legal Issues

According to the Texas Heart Institute and other medical experts, side effects of beta blocker use range from drowsiness to memory loss. Like most prescription drugs, taking too much of a beta blocker, i.e. overdosing, can be serious. You may experience a range of symptoms, from having trouble breathing to falling into a coma.

But is it legal? Technically, yes. So long as you have a prescription for them from your doctor. Students - or anyone else - who buys, sells, and/or uses beta blockers without a prescription may be violating state and federal controlled substances or drug laws.

In addition, non-medical use by students may lead to disciplinary action by the school, such as suspension or expulsion, under the school's zero-tolerance policy.

In some schools, such as the University of Minnesota's School of Music, non-medical use of beta blockers may be considered "cheating." After all, beta blockers are considered a performance enhancing drug and are banned in all sorts of professional sports, like golf, as well as in many Olympic and international competitions.

What You Can Do

If you're a student with a medical need for beta blockers, be sure school officials know about it. This way, arrangements can be made for you to take the medication while at school without violating school policy.

If you're a student thinking about using beta blockers to help you perform better, you should understand the potential health and legal problems you're opening yourself up to. Also, think about the moral or ethical issue. Is it fair to your fellow students or competitors, and to yourself, to use them?

Parents, it's up to you to talk to your child about the use of beta blockers - as well as other drugs, whether they're legal prescription drugs or illegal substances. When it comes to prescription drugs, check your medicine cabinet. Students without prescriptions are getting beta blockers and other drugs from somewhere, and one place is from their own homes.

Everyone wants to do well in the things they do, whether its work, sports, or school. We need to be careful, though, when our desire to achieve drives us to use chemicals for a little extra help.     

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Are parents legally responsible if their child gives another student a beta blocker and the student becomes ill because of it?
  • Can a school require a student to have a physical examination by a doctor of its choosing to confirm the student's need for beta blockers?
  • Can a school search a student's locker if it suspects he has beta blockers or other drugs in it?
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