Students’ little helpers

June 3, 2008

Athletes aren’t the only ones who take performance-enhancing drugs. A growing number of college students (as well as their professors, apparently) are taking drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin, which are typically used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder, as “study drugs” to stimulate their memory, concentration and focus. Alarms are being sounded over this “drug abuse” crisis, but Reason magazine wonders what the big deal is:

Still, there is widespread alarm about the possible health problems arising from unsupervised dosing. “Put the pills in the wrong hands and the results can be dangerous,” NBC News warned. Henry Chung, Director of the New York University Student Health Center has warned that, “Students may have some kind of manic reaction or a seizure that could occur from taking these medications.” For high doses, Chung is correct. But today’s performance-enhancing undergraduates exhibit more responsibility than Chung realizes. One NYU senior I spoke to says it’s mainly a case of “every now and again for finals. I don’t know anyone who abuses Adderall or Ritalin.” Moreover, “because they’re prescription you can find out so much about them so you know how you can take it safely.”

There is also the claim that student dopers—like testosterone-injecting athletes—are cheating because college is a competitive environment in which participants are obliged to play fair. Of course, this argument ignores the fact that most of the abilities being enhanced by such drugs are already unequally distributed (due to a mixture of biological and socioeconomic factors). Why is doping to achieve “normal” functionality a permissible act for ADD sufferers, but wrong for those seeking better grades or greater knowledge?

But those athletic skills are also unequally distributed. That’s why stereoids are taken — to make up for what biology didn’t provide. The question to ask is: Why is artificial enhancement wrong in a competitive athletic environment but not wrong in a competitive academic environment? Why aren’t they both right or both wrong?

2 Responses to “Students’ little helpers”

  1. Harl Delos Says:

    Why aren’t they both right or both wrong?

    Good point.

    The most gifted writer ever to come out of Louisville said: “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.” – Hunter S. Thompson.

    On the other hand, there was an article in the April Esquire about taking steroids, “Look at Me! I’m a Big Strong Boy!” by Craig Davidson. Never heard of him before, but he’s good. The article is disturbingly uncomfortable. Available online at:

  2. Sue Says:

    If these kids can’t handle the stress of college life without drugs to help them focus and concentrate, how are they going to handle REAL life? I don’t want my financial advisor popping a pill before he advises me on my investments.

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