The Case Against Study Drugs

By Jack Gaiennie and Ben Atnipp

On any college campus, there will be a certain amount of drugs. Soft, hard, recreational, prescription—most common drugs are within easy reach of a resourceful student. You shouldn’t do them obviously, but you know they exist.  Starting with D.A.R.E. classes in middle school and continuing all the way to our Alcohol EDU freshman year our knowledge of drugs grows as we do. We always saw the purpose of drugs as recreation at best, and addiction and death at worst. However, recent trends suggest students seeking another use. This is a different drug, a more controversial (and arguably helpful) drug: the study drug.

For many students, it is the first mind-altering drug they ever take. From elementary friends receiving their daily doses of Adderall, Ritalin, or Vyvanse, to recent classmates diagnosed with ADD or ADHD in their late teens, focus drugs have become a part of our lives. Those above are all prescribed users, but, as is the case with all drugs, their consumers find ways around the law. As most college students can attest, the availability of these drugs is only a few phone calls away.

Many people like to compare study drugs to caffeine without the adverse side effects and a greater potency. So, with that comparison in mind, how do we differentiate Adderall and Vyvanse from coffee and tea? Obviously one is a prescription drug and the other is a common beverage. For every caffeine fiend out there, they know that coffee dependency is a function of availability and self-discipline. However, where the line begins to blur between drug and beverage is the unintended psychological effects that these stimulants can have. Imagine a likely scenario: someone writes a B paper with a cup of coffee, then writes an A paper on Vyvanse. What does that tell them about themselves? Which would you choose in the future? Our lifestyles prove that students are creatures of habit. When we find a spot in Leyburn where we get work done, we go back there. While we all need energy to get through the day, focus seems harder to come by. Who is to say someone won’t convince themselves that they can only get work done on Adderall when they have a paper to write? It is a slippery slope undoubtedly.

While dependence is a cause for concern, perhaps the W&L student might be more interested in a boost to their grades. A’s and B’s are established cornerstones to success, and we, as aspiring professionals, embrace that. The Honor System at Washington and Lee has placed lying, stealing, and cheating into severe danger, but even better, it has done its best to convince students to take a C when an A has been one quiet zipper away. It preserves the University as an ethical study place, but even more so, the Honor System pushes its adherents to be true to themselves and their preparation. Along those lines of personal honesty, it stands to reason that the unacknowledged aid of study drugs for competitive advantages obstructs the trust of this community. Unless you suffer from one of the aforementioned disorders, use of study drugs creates the potential for an unfair advantage that could put students who abstain from study drugs in a compromised position.

Consider Alex Rodriguez and Lance Armstrong, two (former) giants of the sports world, whose choices to use banned performance enhancing drugs surely tarnished their careers. If we accept that study drugs augment student performance, how are their unlawful users any different? It may be that science will need to prove focal differences between study drugs and coffee, but it may also be the case that we as students need to prove the differences between diligence and cutting corners—after all, we all do plan on leaving this place. It might sound old-fashioned, or even obsolete, to question kids’ new habits, but this is The Spectator, and we haven’t heard much of this talk.

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