“I got straight A’s** on my final exams! It’s the Ivy League for me!” (**tested positive for Adderall )

“I got straight A’s** on my final exams! It’s the Ivy League for me!” (**tested positive for Adderall )

When a past student of EE came home for a visit this spring from a prominent Big 10 university, he told me he was doing great – having a good time and pulling good grades. He is your typical college sophomore – goes to football games, is in a fraternity, wants to get good grades, but also wants to have fun. He is also typical in that he is prescribed Adderall – a drug usually prescribed for people with ADD or ADHD. By his own omission, the student is not severely ADD, and was not diagnosed in his youth with this disorder. He just went to a doctor and said he had attention issues: can’t focus, easily distracted, etc.

Why is he taking Adderall)? This is what really scared me: he said, “Everyone else is doing it. If I don’t, I am at a disadvantage. I need to do it to compete.” It sounded like he was talking about steroids, and in a way he was: steroids for your brain.

Adderall, and other drugs prescribed for attention deficit disorders, are now of common use among college students who have no history of having ADD. These drugs give “normal” students extra focus, stamina, and recall in their studies. Getting wired on coffee or Mountain Dew for marathon study sessions has been replaced by the hard stuff – and this is the hard stuff, don’t be fooled that it is prescribed by doctors. Adderall is classified along with cocaine and morphine as a class two controlled substance because they are so addictive.

A front page article in the New York Times this week highlights how the use of these drugs is now gaining popularity in high schools. Student reports say that 1/3 of the students at some private high schools are using them. They are either prescribed legitimately, or are bought from other students.

The scary thing about this is the complicity of parents and doctors in enabling students to start using these highly addictive drugs. Parents are so concerned with their kids getting into the right college and succeeding when they are there that they will turn the other cheek, or even encourage them to use pills to get an edge. Doctors should clearly know better. However, what regulations are in place to prevent them from prescribing these drugs, and what are their motivations to do so?

Parents need to wake up. How you judge success should not be based solely on grades and standardized test scores. Encouraging children that a little pill is the cure for motivation, organization, and proper study skills is dangerous. Think of what will come next for your kids. How will they succeed at their first job, as role models for siblings, or as parents themselves, if they are taught that the answer to all their problems is found in a pill? This avalanche of Adderall is another reflection of our society’s quick-fix mentality. Remember the old ad campaign “This is your brain on drugs” with the egg frying in the pan? Well, I guess that egg is looking pretty appetizing now that it is seasoned with Adderall.