It’s 3 in the morning. Your coffee cup is empty. Your eyes feel itchy. Your body aches from hunching over your notes. Your pen has run out of ink. Even your fingernails feel tired. Maybe you think you’ll never be able to pass your midterm on Thursday. Maybe you feel like taking a stimulant is the only way you’ll be able to focus on the studying at hand. Maybe you don’t think it’s a big deal to pop an Adderall in the back of your throat like your favorite color Skittle and keep grinding until the sun comes up. Maybe you don’t realize that recreational abuse of drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin is not a victimless crime.
Adderall, a common stimulant prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or narcolepsy, does improve focus and decrease impulsive behavior. But it is a controlled substance that can cause dependence and addiction. A recent report conducted at Bates College claimed that one in three college students had abused Adderall at some point. According to another study from the University of Michigan, 9 percent of college students reported misusing Adderall in 2012.
I’m not hating on Adderall. Quite the opposite actually. For those who actually do suffer from ADHD, Adderall is a valuable and useful tool which individuals can choose to take or not take. The abuse of this drug by students who simply want to cram for their upcoming midterm or pump out a paper at 4 a.m. is what I take issue with. For obvious reasons, drug abuse is a bad thing. Less obvious is the fact that drug abuse creates unhealthy expectations for all college students. Penn’s celebratory and competitive culture over who has the least sleep or worst workload doesn’t help.
We aren’t robots. We shouldn't need to stay awake in order to study for a midterm and write seven literature reviews all in one night. But the growing abuse of Adderall creates a culture of unfounded and unrealistic expectations that only end with a large amount of the student population feeling incapable of doing the same amount of work, and drug dependence for others.
I know we all wish there was more time in the day. Waking up at 5 in the morning to write an essay due at an 11 o’clock class isn’t ideal, but it’s manageable, and one of the ways I personally balance non-negotiable sleep with getting my work done. My concern lies not with judging someone based on whether or not they've taken Adderall to help them study, because it’s effects are appealing, especially during midterm season. But, Adderall abuse is a growing phenomenon among college students. A phenomenon that rips rifts into the fabric of a school, creating craters that students shouldn’t have to navigate around.
I’m making the case for Adderall — for those who are prescribed it. But others need to think for a minute about the diminutive quality of taking a drug for personal gain that some people actually need in order to function in the conventional classroom. Abusing Adderall might seem like a quick fix to the study troubles you’re currently facing, but the consequences that ensue can be lasting.
SOPHIA DUROSE is a College sophomore from Orlando, Fla. studying English. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.