A large coffee, a can of Red Bull and some Adderall; Michael Richardson ask is this the study cocktail students are turning to keep up with academic pressures?
ADDERALL is prescribed to treat those suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), to help them to concentrate for longer. The reason may seem straightforward; students hope these drugs will enable them to work harder for longer hours, but the effects and implications are far from it.
So what are the effects of this so called ‘smart drug’? As this is a relatively new phenomenon, we don’t know what the long term implications are, however, one study which followed 898 US undergrads, none of whom were diagnosed with ADHD, during their final year gives some insight.
The results showed that those who abstained from using smart drugs significantly improved their grades from the year before. However, the third of students who used them saw no change. Indeed it seems no academic benefit was found. In fact, one reports shows that students who abuse study drugs have lower GPAs than those who don’t.
The academic implications may look poor, but the toll the pills take on mental health is much more severe. Insomnia, anorexia, and anxiety are all common side effects of taking the drug – and that’s in those who actually have ADHD. There is no concrete knowledge of how prevalent the use of smart drugs is, however, it can be presumed that the side effects for someone who does not have a prescription could be much more severe due to the lack of regulation.
Cogitative-enhancing drugs have been proven to enable surgeons to perform better. That is likely the sole circumstance under which the use of smart drugs is ethical. Taking stimulants to perform better academically is undeniably a selfish move. It is a type of cheating that makes pen notes scrawled up an arm seem honest.
Objectively, if one was to put all ethical questions aside, is taking the drug a good call as you cannot control how it will affect you? Take, for example, prescription glasses. They are wildly beneficial, to those that need them. Anyone with 20:20 vision that puts on a pair is going to do more harm than good to themselves. The same goes for taking unprescribed ADHD medication. Thus, the misuse is a huge issue. ADHD drugs are not designed to help a person who does not suffer from the condition to study. Intentions are different from a response and a person cannot control how such a drug will affect them. This is likely one of the reasons that emergency room visits due to ADHD drugs more than doubled from 2005 to 2010.
Sure, we’ve all heard stories of students holed up in the library for eight unbroken hours churning out an Adderall induced thesis, but how about the students who take the same drug and instead put colossal focus on something irrelevant and end up wasting that time, say, by manically arranging their bookshelves? When it comes to mind altering drugs, there’s no accounting for how the cards will fall.
Such a dangerous part of campus life cannot remain in the shadows for much longer. It is crucial that this growing trend is smoked out, but who is working to make that happen? While it has caught some attention recently, what is being done is still nowhere near enough. An article recently published on TheJournal.ie stated that the Union of Students in Ireland has addressed the issue by condoning colleges for not responding accordingly to the spike in usage. UCD is Ireland’s only university to release an official policy on the issue. The university has officially advised students “who may have taken or considered taking a ‘study drug’ to exercise caution, and contact our student advisory service or our student health service in confidence so they can get support”.
Moreover, the newly elected Welfare Officer Eoghan Mac Domhnaill has also recently discussed the issue. Mac Domhnaill sees stopping students from beginning to take smart drugs as a major obstacle that needs to be tackled. He also has plans for revising the “What’s in the Pill” campaign coming up to exam time.
It is disappointing that this conversation is not being had by other universities. More should be done to highlight the issue and offer support for those who need it, namely from Irelands other academic institutions. Yet, there is hope that this phenomenon will being ignored no longer.
It is also worth noting that this trend likely reflects a much greater issue. There is rapidly growing pressure to achieve good grades. While competition within college is far from new, this generation is anxiously preparing to head into an uncertain world. Thus it seems students are willing to cut corners if they think it will give them a positive edge. If only the word on how damaging it is was being widely discussed. If only people knew the damage they were doing