The pressures of college are enough to drive many students to drugs. It may be impossible to gauge how many students illegally use Attention Deficit Disorder muse methylphenidates like Ritalin and Adderall at GW, but it is difficult to dispute the results many students attribute to the pills themselves.
According to a 2004 Harris Interactive Study, college is the peak time for nonmedical use of prescription pills. But many studies claim that moredication for its intended medical reason – increased concentration – rather than as a “party drug.” The percentage of students who report abusing the drug socially is significantly lower than those who use the pills for studying.
If students who aren’t prescribed these pills take them anyway, and more students take them for their intended effect than as a substitute for stronger narcotics, then why are they still only available by prescription? Eventually the question becomes: why aren’t pills like Ritalin or Adderall available for all students?
The advantage Ritalin and Adderall give to students is the same we’ve seen in other parts of society in recent years. A pill that increases your ability to concentrate and your GPA? Translate that kind of result to the sports field and you have steroids; transfer that dream to the bedroom and you have Viagra.
In fact, Adderall and Ritalin use in college is not dissimilar from steroid use in sports. Just as an athlete decides to take a drug that improves their strength, recovery time and ultimately their performance, students pop a pill that suddenly turns them into a studying machine. The results of the pills can be drastic for many, regardless of whether or not they are diagnosed with ADD.
Some sports writers say that all athletes should be allowed to use steroids since everyone uses them already. Call it the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” strategy. But while steroids are harmful and usually illegal, methylphenidates like Ritalin have been prescribed to millions of children in the last 20 years. While there are side effects to taking the drug, they are given to children as young as seven. A PBS report found that over 15 million prescriptions for ADD medications were written in 1999, and that number has only increased. If doctors are prescribing them at ever-increasing rates, potential side effects seem to be a diminishing concern. So why not give everyone the ability to use these pills?
Given the choice to take an injection that would make you a star athlete, many people would have said “yes” until they heard the dangers of steroid use. But a college student offered the chance to get an A instead of a C, without the fear of shrunken testicles, acne or even heart failure? It’s no wonder so many say “yes” and head to the library.
If Ritalin were made available over-the-counter, students would have an increased ability to improve their grades. A pill that improves your grades may seem too good to be true, but for many students it is a real possibility. Students who truly want to learn should not be prevented from doing so simply because there is a chance the drugs could be abused on a Friday night. Students should not have to rely on dealers for substances that could safely help them learn.
The writer, a junior majoring in journalism and mass communication, is a Hatchet columnist.
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