Do you want good grades? There’s a pill for that. Adderall is an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drug that is becoming increasingly known to be a remedy for more than just this ailment.
If increased academic performance and Zen-like focus is as simple as swallowing a pill, then why not? The underlying issues here, which many 4.0-seeking college students might not choose to consider, pertain to unfair advantages and unclear medical consequences. The widespread availability of ADHD drugs like Adderall, in conjunction with a highly competitive college environment like the one on campus, is suppressing many students’ sense of good judgment.
To illustrate the ethical issues behind this matter, let’s take a look at the recent issue of Lance Armstrong with doping. Armstrong was taking performance-enhancing drugs on a regular basis and was able to gain an unfair advantage over the rest of the field. Of course, this is completely illegal and Armstrong is now suffering the consequences. The unsanctioned use of ADHD drugs to get ahead in schoolwork raises similar red flags, but colleges can only do so much to try to prohibit this behavior. Students who complete their work under their own power can do nothing but compete against the cheaters. Furthermore, kids and adults are now prescribed these drugs at an increasing rate, which creates widespread availability on college campuses. When the work piles up, as it often does, many students consider ADHD drugs to be the go-to study aids rather than a quiet, distraction-free study environment. Unfortunately, intense academic competition at the University can drive students to resort to these extremes.
Beyond ethical concerns, we must also consider the physical consequences of using ADHD drugs without the consent of a doctor. These drugs can cause both physical and mental addictions, and the scientific community has yet to complete many conclusive studies on the effects of their long-term use. Students without prescriptions waste a great deal of money buying these medications and may even go as far as faking a disease to get a prescription.
In the short term, students might get great grades using ADHD drugs and feel perfectly content with their decision to participate in this illicit activity. However, this approach seems shortsighted to me. I believe that these students will regret their decision in the long run when they are struggling to find a natural way to complete their work. Yet, the use of ADHD medications without a prescription to get ahead in school will not fade easily. The reward is too enticing, and a school with the University’s prestige is not going to ease up on academic rigor anytime soon.