I saw an intriguing 60 minutes segment this week outlining the huge numbers of students (and professionals surprisingly) that are wantonly taking ADHD drugs in college for everything from studying and test-taking to pulling all-nighters and writing otherwise boring papers. I was struck by both the striking proportion of students who admit to this practice and also the nonchalant attitude toward taking medications in the same class as cocaine to do something we’re supposed to confront with our natural abilities – school – and your job.
Staggering Numbers – Students and Professionals
According to their estimates, Among Upper Classes, 50-60 Percent Using ADD/ADHD Drugs Ritalin and Adderall. The students interviewed said “It’s the norm”. According to a survey of nearly 2,000 students at the University of Kentucky, 34% of undergrads took attention deficit drugs illegally without a prescription. For perspective, the percentage of students legally taking the drugs (presumably, only a portion even, of these actually need it) is 4%.
Isn’t This Cheating?
Call me old-fashioned, but drinking a soda and getting some fresh air used to be the way college students stayed alert and pulled all-nighters. And call me ancient to suggest that perhaps an all-nighter wouldn’t even be required if you didn’t procrastinate until the last minute. But these days, I now see middle school kids walking out of dunkin’ donuts with coffees (this was unheard of when I was growing up and I’m not old) and highschool and college students are taking drugs meant for clinically diagnosed attention disorders. Is this really any different than “natural athletes competing against athletes on steroids? If I’m using my own natural ability to study, retain lecture information and take a test and I’m competing against a classful of students taking drugs that (supposedly) increase mental acuity and performance, is that fair? Do I then need to start taking drugs just to compete? I mean, many courses grade on a curve, right?
It Doesn’t Matter – Nothing can be Done to Stop It
Whether this is fair or not doesn’t really matter frankly. The phenomena has arrived and it’s here to stay. We can’t even keep drugs that are illegal under all circumstances from flooding our country, how would we reasonably expect to curtail the use of legally prescribed drugs? According to the students in the airing, they simply go to a doctor and say “Oh, I’ve been having trouble concentrating” and the doctor in turn says “Oh, you must have ADHD – here’s a prescription”. It’s an obvious wink-wink relationship between the sales reps, doctors and patients that is so prevalent in our society. The interesting part is that the jury’s still out on a) how effective the use of these drugs actually is for college students and b) what the long-term effects are for chronic use and addiction.
The New Normal
I suspect this trend is another new normal for America. We’re graduating an entire generation of students who are now entering the workforce that are either overtly addicted to ADHD drugs or at least believe that it’s OK to use these drugs enhance their performance and alertness as needed, so this is our future American workforce. Personally, I don’t feel threatened because intelligence and alertness are just a couple cogs in the wheel of what actually makes for a successful career, but I wonder about my kids. Will this work its way down to routine use in highschool and earlier? Will it be “expected” that if you want to be a top student, you’ve gotta use in order to excel? Who knows? I had heard of this before, but I was shocked by the prevalence.
Do You Use ADHD Drugs to Enhance Your Performance?
Do You Think It’s Fair?