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Davis, California

Monday, October 25, 2021

Adderall: A mental steroid?

JAY GELVEZON / AGGIE
JAY GELVEZON / AGGIE

We’ve all been warned about the harms of substance abuse, how the use and abuse of illegal drugs can negatively impact both our academic performance and overall health.

But what about drugs like Adderall, normally prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), but are now being used to help students further their academic progress?

Adderall — which up to 18 percent of students admit to using at least once to study — is considered a Schedule II drug, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Like other drugs in this category, such as cocaine, methamphetamine and oxycodone, Adderall has a strong potential for abuse and comes with a string of physical and psychological effects.

Adverse health effects of the psychostimulant aside (which include anything from increased heart rate and blood pressure to sweating, loss of appetite and depressed mood), Adderall abuse actually translates to a lack of academic integrity. This drug, for those who have not been diagnosed with ADD, is comparable to a mental steroid. Using it means performing far better than a person would sans pharmaceuticals.

The controversy of using this drug undiagnosed is rooted in one question: does using the drug without a prescription in order to further academic performance constitute cheating?

I’d say yes, and so would 40% of students in a 2014 study.

It seems safe to suggest that these students take offense to the fact that, while they’re up all night cramming with more natural energy boosters like sugar or coffee, their peers have no qualms about popping a pill at the last minute to work with twice the speed and twice the focus.

And yet, our university does little to create awareness on the issue, let alone find a way to regulate it. It isn’t fair that some students create this advantage for themselves or, going to the root of the problem, that students feel so much pressure that they need to resort to such means of furthering their academic progress. And this phenomenon shouldn’t go unnoticed. Without regulation this abuse could easily continue and the demand for drugs like Adderall could increase.

In some way, students need to understand the health and ethical effects of this kind of abuse. What can begin as a couple of desperate attempts to excel on an assignment can quickly turn into a dependence on the drug. And exploitation of the drug over a long period of time can lead to serious damages to a person’s health, like permanent brain damage.

Without established consequences, Adderall abuse will only be more normalized. If students see how easy it is to get away with using the drug, and aren’t properly educated on the risks, universities will only face a larger epidemic than already exists.

You can reach HAYLEY PROKOS at hprokos@ucdavis.edu or on Twitter @haroulii14.

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