The “Smart Drugs” Debate

Is it wrong to use Adderall and other drugs to enhance performance?

By Maggie Heffernan                                                                                          

Nicole Giannetti begins every morning in the same way: she gets up, slips on one of her many stylish pairs of ankle boots, and strides toward the Dining Center to make a 16-ounce cup of iced coffee.

Yet for Giannetti, it is not so much the taste of the beverage that she craves as the jolt of caffeine that it dependably provides her.

“I got addicted to Dunkin Donuts iced coffee over the summer,” admits the Haverford College sophomore. “It was pretty bad.”

The energy boost one gets from consuming caffeinated drinks such as coffee, Red Bull, and Monster is no new phenomenon to high school and college-aged students. Now, however, a new stimulant is entering the conversation: “smart drugs.”

So-called “smart drugs” include Adderall, Ritalin, and Modafinil and are typically prescribed to treat disorders such as ADHD. Students who do not have prescriptions forAdderol these drugs sometimes take them, however, in the hopes that they will be able to focus better and gain a competitive edge in the classroom. According to a 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 11% of 12- to 25-year-olds use prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.

And recent dialogue suggests that this percentage has only gone up.

At Haverford, however, the attitude towards “smart drugs” seems to be an exception to the national trend. In an anonymous online survey of 230 self-selected Haverford students, over half of respondents stated that taking “smart drugs” to boost academic performance is “cheating.” 22% said that they were “not sure” if this constitutes cheating.

Many respondents also noted that the use of these drugs in individuals without prescriptions for them is unfair for students who have a medical need for them.

“In order to get closer to the level of attention and focus the typical student has, someone with ADHD needs to take a medication for it,” said Haverford sophomore Chelsea Richardson. “If the use of that medication becomes normalized, then the level of attention and focus of the typical student is raised above what a student with ADHD can possibly reach.” Continue reading