Finals Mean Cram Time and Pill Time

May 11, 2010 | NeW Staff

It’s that time of year for students…finals, papers, cramming, late night study sessions.  Today, many students are turning to a different alternative to help get them through the dreaded finals week.  It’s note a smartphone app with downloaded lectures or tutorials; it’s not an innovative new study technique; it’s not going to a professor’s office hours.  Students have turned to prescription drugs like Adderall to help them study, write papers, and take tests.  And beyond that, more often than not, students are buying Adderall off of fellow classmates who actually have a prescription.

According to an article in The Daily Beast on the abundance of Adderall use on college campuses (and particularly on Ivy League campuses),

The pill occupies the strange middle ground where the libertine drug culture meets high-stress study culture. Its use is more dangerous than, say, caffeine, but it’s every bit as popular.

Unfortunately, the problem is rooted in the over-prescription of the Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) drug:

What makes study drugs so accessible is the manipulation of prescriptions. Adderall is provided often and easily: James went to a psychiatrist early in his college career to talk about feelings of depression, but the doctor, noticing his diverted attention, administered a heart rate test before prescribing Adderall.

Many students have calculated methods of how to use Adderall most effectively to achieve desired academic results.  The use of Adderall looks different for different students:

Liberal arts students like Zoe use Adderall to finish papers on time, but James, who is a quantitative student, studies on Adderall, then takes tests while coming down. To minimize the crash, James usually takes a fraction of a pill before a test, a strategy he says helps him to retain the knowledge but causes him to become overly detail-oriented.

Of the students interviewed, the author finds mixed responses.  Some students think it is a “miracle drug,” others recognize it benefits and negative side effects, and then others who take the drug solely for medical purposes are frustrated by those who abuse without medical necessity.  However, the overwhelming consensus is that students are hooked on using Adderall for academic gain. According to one student,

April seems the most cognizant of Adderall’s drawbacks. “We’ve become so dependent,” she says. “I wouldn’t survive without James’ prescription.”

This article is indicative of the problematic culture facing students today.  The usage of a prescription drug like Adderall is seen almost as a free pass for college students.  Those who don’t have a prescription easily rationalize taking it.  As a recent college graduate, I feel this really has become an epidemic.  A problem that undermines hard work and personal responsibility, and not to mention, has serious negative implications for one’s health if abused.

How prevalent are prescription drugs like Adderall on your campus?  It seems to me that “groupthink” is at play here, and students easily find ways to rationalize why it is okay to use prescription drugs for academic benefit because everyone else is doing it.  Is there a way to stop the abuse of such drugs on college campuses today?  I don’t see this ending well for our students today if such practices continue.  
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