Taking Drugs to Study?
Everyone knows that the education system has become extremely competitive, and the standards at top-tier universities such as UC Berkeley place extreme pressure on students. Regular eating patterns are unheard of in most cases, and sleepless study sessions are the norm. However, these study measures have expanded to the use of drugs to increase one’s focus and productivity. This culture has developed to the extent where it is readily acknowledged in most universities across the world, and recent research by Alan DeSantis, a researcher at the University of Kentucky, has found that “30% of students at the university have illegally used a stimulant, like the ADHD drugs Adderall or Ritalin” and that “the numbers increase with upperclassmen.” He notes that “half of all juniors and seniors”, including “80% of upperclassmen in fraternities and sororities,” have used the drugs.”
The most common drugs, as mentioned above, are adderall and ritalin, which are usually used to treat attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). What makes the usage even more prevalent is that one doesn’t even need a prescription to obtain some, nor is it stigmatized. In the words of one student, “‘It’s easy — not sketchy or perceived in a bad way,” he says. “Maybe a simple text or a phone call.'”
Although most students acknowledge the fact that these “study drugs” increase their academic capabilities, many of them are unaware of the negative side effects they pose. In fact, drugs such as adderall, when used for reasons other than what they are prescribed for, can produce jitters, headaches, stomach problems, and can eventually lead to psychosis if the use is prolonged. Furthermore, adderall is an amphetamine, so its usage forms a habit and eventually leads to dependence and depressed body functions when not using it. Although there is a positive increase in mood and behavior in the short term, it can cause depression, mood problems, and functionality impairment over time. As one student who was a user for more than 5 years confesses, “‘At first, I used it […] to crank up study sessions or to meet a strict deadline. By junior year, it had progressed to something much more than that. I started taking adderall every single morning, just to wake up, and to give me enough energy to last through the day. On those long, foggy days I’d forget to take it, my mind would be in sleep mode, dozing in class and drifting in thought.”
Much of the problem lies in the fact that students do not perceive this drug as particularly harmful. In fact research has shown that students perceive adderall as slightly more harmful to their body than soda. They believe that it is nowhere near as dangerous as other substances such as alcohol and smoking, according to DeSantis. Furthermore, the pervasive nature of this drug through all academic institutions beginning as low as freshman in high school makes it seem acceptable to most students.
In terms of legality, it is illegal to use such drugs without a prescription, and students who are charged with its usage are liable for prosecution. Many people have suggested legalizing a controlled amount of adderall for this particular purpose seeing its widespread use, but seeing the obvious negative effects it has on young, developing bodies, this proposition is still highly debated.
In terms of a solution, educating students about the negative effects that lay beyond the euphoria of finishing your pile of homework in one night is a step in the right direction. It may also be that a decrease of pressure and competition in these institutions is called for, maybe with intervention of the administration. Whatever it is, we have to stop the culture that is slowly establishing itself as the de rigueur in academic institutions.
- College students take ADHD drugs for better grades from CNN by the Cable News Network <http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/01/health/drugs-adderall-concentration>
- In Their Own Words: ‘Study Drugs’ from the New York Times Education by the New York Times Company <http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/06/10/education/stimulants-student-voices.html>
Article by Nithya Lingampalli
Feature Image Source: CCHR International