Psychoactive Medications and Student Defense

In a perfect world, every student would enter and progress through the school program with perfect mental health. This world isn't a perfect world. Students at all levels of schooling bring with them preexisting mental health issues. School programs can also exacerbate and aggravate preexisting mental health conditions or spawn new mental health conditions the student hadn't previously encountered. Psychoactive medications can certainly help students deal with those mental health conditions. But psychoactive medications can also trigger anomalous behavior. In other words, psychoactive medications can both help and hurt a student's school performance. And in the worst case, psychoactive medication behaviors can lead to academic problems, behavioral issues, and school disciplinary charges. If you face or your student faces school disciplinary charges at any level, retain national student defense attorney Joseph Lento for an informed, effective, and skillful defense of those charges.  

Benefits of Prescription Drugs for Psychiatric Conditions 

Prescription drugs for psychiatric conditions can work marvelously for students to enroll in and progress through educational programs at all levels. Psychoactive medications can so ameliorate psychiatric disorders as to enable the suffering student to continue through an ordinary course of elementary, secondary, or post-secondary education on schedule with peers. That relief can be an enormous achievement for the student, who thus gains peace, confidence, and education, while avoiding embarrassment, delay, and disruption. Psychoactive drugs can facilitate normal student life for students who would otherwise have no meaningful prospect for education. In their best effects, psychoactive medications can also enable a student to enroll in and progress through the most challenging of school programs like graduate and professional programs. Psychoactive drugs, properly prescribed, administered, and managed, can work wonders for the student pursuing education at all levels. 

Hazards of Prescription Drugs for Psychiatric Conditions 

But psychoactive medications also come with certain hazards. Psychoactive medications aren't perfect. Even when properly prescribed, administered, and monitored, they can come with the potential for moderate to severe side effects. The trade-off of therapeutic effect for non-therapeutic side effect may well be worth it. If the drug works well enough to keep the student in school, then the side effects may be worth tolerating. But side effects can also be a significant risk and hazard for the student within the educational program. The side effects may interfere with the educational program, even as the drug's therapeutic effects enable the student to participate in the program. Inappropriate dosage is another hazard of psychoactive drugs that can lead to academic and behavioral issues and school misconduct charges. Prescribers and pharmacists don't always get the dosage right. And the student taking the prescribed drug can also make mistakes. And a related hazard is that starting new psychoactive medications can require a period of adjusting doses while the body adjusts to the medication's effects. From a physiological standpoint, the brain and body must adapt to the new drug, during which the student may experience distorted perceptions and poor judgment. As wondrous as they can be, psychoactive medications carry hazards for students. 

Drug Safety and Pharmacovigilance 

School officials don't generally understand, appreciate, and respect the challenges that physicians and their student patients face when prescribing, administering, and monitoring psychoactive medications. Introducing new drugs into the patient population, and prescribing a new drug for an individual patient, requires more than simply drug safety. The question isn't simply whether the drug will help or harm patients generally or a specific individual patient. The larger question involves the overall effect and impact of the new drug on patients generally within varied environments and on the individual patient in that patient's specific circumstances. Pharmacovigilance, as pharmacology programs describe the term, takes into proactive account not just the drug's physiological effect on the patient's body but also the drug's effect on the patient's behavior within the patient's social environment. School officials don't generally understand the difference between drug safety and pharmacovigilance. School officials won't necessarily respect that otherwise safe and effective drugs can cause anomalous and even bizarre and disruptive behavior for the medicated student navigating a challenging school program. Retain national student defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to educate the school officials who control the disciplinary proceedings in these pharmacovigilance issues. Don't let school officials blame deliberate intentions and bad character for acts and circumstances that a prescribed drug instead created. 

Common School Psychoactive Medications 

Psychoactive medications address psychiatric disorders by affecting the person's mental state and abilities. Some drug experts distinguish psychoactive from psychotropic medications, saying that the former pass through the blood-brain barrier while the latter affects mental states without doing so. Other drug experts use the terms psychoactive and psychotropic interchangeably as pseudonyms. In any case, psychoactive or psychotropic medications are in common use among students to treat and manage a wide range of psychiatric disorders. Those disorders include ADHD, OCD, and other conditions about which school officials and instructors may be well aware. A reliable source indicates these five types of psychoactive medications, the common conditions they treat, and the side effects they can produce: 

  • Antidepressants to regulate mood, activity, sleep, alertness, seasonal affective disorder, and other conditions, for smoking cessation treatment, but with drowsiness, insomnia, constipation, weight gain, sexual problems, tremors, dry mouth, mood swings, and other side effects; 
  • Anti-anxiety medications for panic attacks, phobias, generalized anxiety, and various anxiety-related symptoms, but with nausea, blurred vision, headaches, confusion, fatigue, nightmares, and other side effects; 
  • Stimulants to manage unorganized behavior, improve concentration, and calm nerves, but with insomnia, decreased appetite, weight loss, and other side effects; 
  • Antipsychotics to treat ADHD, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders, address delusions and hallucinations, and improve thinking, sleep, nerves, and communication, but with drowsiness, upset stomach, increased appetite, and weight gain along with other side effects; and 
  • Mood stabilizers to treat bipolar disorder and mood swings but with an upset stomach, drowsiness, weight gain, dizziness, tremors, blurred vision, confusion, and other side effects. 

Psychoactive Medications and Academic Issues 

The psychoactive medication side effects listed just above can obviously challenge a student in any school program at any level. The physical side effects of psychoactive drugs, things like nausea, blurred vision, constipation, tremors, and appetite changes, can alone distract or disable a student from studies. Physical reactions to psychoactive drugs can also cause student absences for treatment, hospitalization, rest, and recovery. Those physical side effects can lead to academic issues with poor exam performance, poor grades, failed courses, incomplete coursework, course withdrawals, and unsatisfactory academic progress. Students can face academic probation, suspension, and dismissal simply because of the physical side effects of psychoactive medications. But the mental side effects of psychoactive medications, including things like confusion, fatigue, headaches, drowsiness, insomnia, nightmares, mood swings, and communication problems, can even more seriously damage the student's academic performance. Students generally need a clear, sharp, and strong mind for effective studies. When psychoactive medications produce negative mental or physical side effects, students can quickly fall into academic problems. 

Academic Discipline Relating to Psychoactive Medications 

When students repeatedly get poor grades, fail courses, withdraw from courses, leave coursework incomplete, and fail to progress academically because of psychoactive medication side effects, those students risk academic probation, suspension, and dismissal. Schools at all levels maintain academic standards. State standards will require primary and secondary schools to maintain and meet academic standards. For programs of higher education, the federal regulation 34 CFR 668.34 requires colleges and universities to receive federal funding to maintain and enforce satisfactory academic progress (SAP) policies. Those SAP policies require students to maintain a minimum grade point average, complete a certain percentage of credits attempted, and graduate within a certain time. As explained just above, psychoactive medication side effects can cause students to fail to meet those academic standards. Students who fail to meet those standards can face academic disciplinary charges threatening suspension and dismissal. Drug reactions aren't an automatic excuse from academic standards. Make no mistake: students suffering from psychiatric disabilities requiring side-effect-producing medication can face academic suspension and dismissal. 

Psychoactive Medications and Behavioral Issues 

Psychoactive medication side effects can do more than just cause academic issues threatening suspension or dismissal. Psychoactive medication side effects can also create behavioral issues leading to misconduct charges. The same side effects like confusion, fatigue, headaches, drowsiness, insomnia, nightmares, mood swings, and communication problems that can produce academic issues can also create behavioral problems. A student suffering a drug reaction may act out or lash out during mood swings, get confused and frustrated over misunderstood instructions and communications, and appear to be under the influence of intoxicating substances. The student may act in ways that appear disrespectful, disorderly, and even inappropriately sexual, reckless, or dangerous, when instead the student is suffering a drug reaction or attempting to compensate for a drug reaction.  

Behavioral Discipline Relating to Psychoactive Medications 

Schools at all levels maintain student codes of conduct regulating student behaviors around common problems like drug and alcohol abuse, trespass and vandalism, property theft, firearms and fireworks possession, smoking, tampering with fire alarms, bullying, and sexual misconduct, including assault and harassment. The student conduct codes for Fort Lee, Bergen County, New Jersey high school students, undergraduates students at Indiana University, and graduate students at the University of Utah are examples. Federal Title IX regulations require schools receiving federal funding to maintain sexual misconduct policies. Other state and federal laws require or encourage schools to maintain anti-bullying, anti-hazing, and other student conduct policies. These behavioral standards apply to all students, including students taking psychoactive medications for mental disorders and disabilities. School officials will notice and file disciplinary charges for the bizarre and disruptive behavior. School officials will not necessarily understand and appreciate the psychoactive drug reaction that is the bizarre behavior's cause.  

Psychiatric Disorders as Protected Disabilities 

Federal disability laws like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 require federally funded schools at all levels to reasonably accommodate students with disabilities. Those federal laws do much more than require schools to have handicap parking spaces or wheelchair ramps for students with physical disabilities. Psychiatric disabilities and other mental health conditions can also qualify for federal disability law protection. Schools must reasonably accommodate students who suffer from qualifying psychiatric disabilities, including the side effects of prescribed psychoactive medications. You or your student may have deserved reasonable accommodations before falling into the academic issue or behavioral issue you face or your student faces. Accommodations may have prevented the issue. But federal disability laws can also help a student who already faces disciplinary charges. Proving that a protected psychiatric disability was the cause of or a contributing factor to the disciplinary charges may be a valid defense to those charges. Federal disability laws can further require the school to modify the disciplinary proceeding itself to accommodate the student's psychiatric disability. If you face or your student faces disciplinary charges due to a reaction to medications prescribed for a psychiatric disability, retain national student defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to help you defend and defeat those charges. Your federal disability rights can, with the right documentation and attorney advocacy, help you or your student win the discipline case. 

Accommodations for Psychoactive Drug Reactions 

Reasonable accommodations for psychiatric disabilities and the side effects of psychoactive medications can include a wide range of methods, support services, and measures. Accommodations don't just mean ramps, hand bars, and other furniture or building modifications. Federal disability laws don't require the school to lower academic or behavioral standards. But federal disability laws may require your school to modify its methods, schedules, resources, supports, and assessment of instruction. The University of Washington, for example, lists these Academic Accommodations for Students with Psychiatric Disabilities, any one or more of which may address and reduce the negative impact of psychoactive drug reactions: 

  • Classroom accommodations, including preferential seating near the door for class breaks, assigned classmates as volunteer assistants, “beverages permitted in class, prearranged or frequent breaks, tape recorder use,  note takers or photocopy of another student's notes, early availability of syllabus and textbooks,”  electronic availability of course materials, and private feedback on academic performance; 
  • Exam accommodations, including alternate format such as multiple choice, essay, oral presentation, role play, or portfolio, use of assistive computer software such as optical character recognition, scanned text read aloud, and “speech recognition for converting the spoken word to printed word,” extended time, individual proctors, exam in a separate, quiet, and non-distracting room, exams in the hospital, and increased frequency of exams; and 
  • Assignment accommodations, including substitute assignments, advance notice of assignments, “assignments handwritten rather than typed, written assignments in lieu of oral presentations or vice versa,  assignments” in demonstration, role play, or graphic format, assignment assistance during hospitalization, and extended time to complete assignments. 

Defending Disciplinary Charges Due to Psychoactive Drugs 

Students or their parents and guardians can take prompt and definitive actions to defend and defeat disciplinary charges relating to an adverse psychoactive drug reaction. Don't give up hope. Don't throw in the proverbial towel. The school issuing disciplinary charges threatening a student's suspension or removal from the program must generally provide that student with due process. Schools routinely offer protective procedures that the accused student or the student's parents or guardians can invoke to prove that the student's academic or behavioral issue was due to a psychoactive drug reaction that school officials should accommodate and excuse. For example, the Tennessee School Boards Association describes in its Student Discipline Guide the minimum measures that federal constitutional law and state statutes require for a high school to suspend a student for more than ten days or expel a student from school. Those measures include clear notice to the accused student of the specific details of the disciplinary charge plus the opportunity to contest the charge in a fair hearing before impartial decision makers. Your best action when facing discipline is to retain a skilled and experienced student defense attorney to promptly invoke those due process procedures. Retain national student defense attorney Joseph D. Lento for your strategic and effective defense. Let attorney Lento demonstrate to school officials the just, lawful, and right way to resolve unfair charges relating to an unexpected and untimely psychoactive drug reaction. 

Available Protective Procedures for Discipline Defense 

Your retained student defense attorney may have multiple procedures to pursue for your aggressive and effective defense of unfair disciplinary charges due to an unexpected drug reaction. The best defense approach depends on the specific facts and circumstances of each individual case. National student defense attorney Joseph D. Lento knows which school officials to contact, which school procedures to invoke, the documentation and witnesses necessary for an effective defense, and the possible and practical resolutions that schools will often adopt or accept through advocacy and negotiation. The procedure that makes the most sense for your particular disciplinary case involving a psychoactive drug reaction may include: 

  • Grade appeals introducing evidence that the drug reaction interfered and that reasonable accommodation warrants review and reconsideration; 
  • Satisfactory academic progress (SAP) appeals proving the drug reaction as a special circumstance for relief from academic standards; 
  • Presentation of a well-developed and achievable academic remediation plan with accommodations to overcome the psychiatric disability; 
  • Response to notice of behavioral charges, providing documentation of the psychoactive drug reaction advocating for dismissal of the charge; 
  • Response to interview, investigation, and investigation report, supplementing the record with psychoactive drug reaction evidence; 
  • Preparation of psychiatric disability documentation and witnesses for a formal hearing on behavioral misconduct charges; 
  • Cross-examination at a formal hearing of adverse witnesses who fail to account for the accused student's psychiatric disability; 
  • Appeal of adverse formal hearing decisions for bias against disabled students, conflicts of interest, and irregularities in the proceeding; and 
  • Appeal to disability accommodations officials knowledgeable about disability laws and psychiatric disability accommodations. 

Seeking Alternative Special Relief 

Don't give up if you have already exhausted all available procedures, including appeals relating to disciplinary charges involving a psychoactive drug reaction. Discipline cases involving protected disabilities, including psychiatric disabilities, present special risks to schools at all levels. When school disciplinary officials suspend or expel a psychiatrically disabled student, those officials create compliance, public-relations, and litigation risks for the school. Schools maintain oversight offices, such as general counsel offices, ombuds offices, and outside retained counsel, to monitor and address those special risks. National student defense attorney Joseph D. Lento has the national reputation and network to reach and effectively advocate with those school oversight officials for special alternative relief. Attorney Lento may be able to help you gain reinstatement to your school through these oversight channels, as he has successfully done in many other cases.  

Premier Defense for Psychoactive Drug Reaction Cases 

Recognize what you or your student has at stake in a school disciplinary proceeding relating to a psychoactive drug reaction. School suspension and dismissal can ruin the opportunity to complete the education, even at another school. Schools are reluctant to take students on transfer or by new admission after dismissal for disciplinary reasons at another school. School suspension or dismissal carries other reputational, relational, job, and career risks. The student facing disciplinary charges relating to a psychoactive drug reaction needs and deserves an aggressive and effective defense. Don't retain a local criminal defense attorney who lacks academic administrative experience and doesn't know the federal disability and due process laws. Instead, retain national student defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team for an aggressive, effective, and winning defense. Attorney Lento has successfully represented hundreds of students at all school levels against disciplinary charges of all kinds, including in cases involving psychiatric and other protected disabilities. Attorney Lento has the necessary knowledge, premier skills, and substantial experience you need or your student needs for a winning defense. Let attorney Lento help you fight the good fight. Don't let a psychoactive drug reaction spoil laudable educational, social, and career ambitions. Call 888-535-3686 for a consultation now, or use the online service. 

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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